A Young mother who became a top disciple of the Beatles' former guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, claims he seduced her -- although he professes to be a celibate monk. After travelling to India to join the Transcendental Meditation movement, Mrs Linda Pearce says she fell completely under the Maharishi's spell. And then into his bed. "I was a virgin and knew nothing about sex," said 34-year-old Mrs Pearce. "He said he loved me and that I was the only one. 'You make my life so good,' he told me. "When I asked about his celibacy he said: 'There are exceptions to every rule.' He was a brilliant manipulator. I just couldn't see that he was a dirty old man. We made love regularly. And I don't think I was the only girl. At one stage I thought I was pregnant by him."
Now, after 12 years in the T.M. movement during which she reached the position of Governor, Mrs Pearce has quit. And she says, "It was all a load of rubbish". In her final year she set up an "academy" in the Scottish Highlands to teach the Maharishi's followers to "fly" - a deep state of meditation in which people are supposed to be floating around the room. "We were all completely taken in," she says. "We only taught people how to hop around like frogs. Nobody ever learned to fly. It was nonsense." Mrs Pearce who has a seven-year-old daughter and a ten-month-old baby joined the Maharishi's movement, now called the World Government or the Age of Enlightenment, in 1967 - the same year as the Beatles joined the bandwagon. At the time Mrs Pearce, grand-daughter of the late Duke of Grafton, was a student at Bedford College, London University. "At my first meeting in London, I was dead bored," she said."But I realised it could help you to relax. And I was so tense, over-tired and run-down. A few months later I went to Paris for an art exhibition. And the Maharishi was there staying in a really posh hotel. "He was surrounded by lots of pop singers and I was taken in by them. The first time I saw the Maharishi he was rather a small creature, holding court cross-legged in this sumptuous room.He had a powerful personality and if anybody queried him, he'd ridicule them and laugh at them."
"He thought I had a few bob - a trust fund of about £40,000 - and he thought I could be useful because I spoke French. He told me to leave university but I wouldn't. Then I went back and within eight months I was totally convinced. I was going to meetings and got to the position where I was recruiting people into the movement. I was totally brainwashed.I paid £200 to go to Squaw Valley, California, for a course. That was in the late Sixties when the Maharishi was taking over flower-power and using it for his own ends.In January 1969, I went to India. I aimed to be a teacher and always had a great feeling that I wanted to make the world a better place. I was there for three months. At the time the Maharishi was recruiting his troops rather than coining in the money. We sat and meditated all day and got dozier and dozier.The Maharishi was there all the time. He used to give us lectures. We thought it was great wisdom."
It was then, she says, that the 68-year-old Maharishi, known as the Giggling Guru, started their affair.
"Others told me I wasn't his first girl," says Mrs Pearce. "There was a lot of talk that he'd tried to rape Mia Farrow. When I went back to my studies in England, I found I was besotted by T.M. and I took to teaching in my spare time. I returned to India the following Christmas and the relationship just started up again. But by then I thought it was wrong and immoral. The Maharishi just laughed that off. In 1970, I finished my university course and followed him to the U.S., Austria and Italy. But although he always tried to get me working close to him, I just had a desire to stay as far away from him as possible. The way he had treated me didn't change my views about the movement. I had this great idea that his techniques were the best."
Three years later, Linda met her husband, Peter Pearce, a South African, on a TM course in Spain. The couple became Governors in the movement and went to South Africa to teach its beliefs.
But when they opened their academy at Crosscraig in Scotland, things started to go wrong.
Linda said: "I really thought I was going mad. The Maharishi still had a mental hold over me. Despite what he did he lectured that you had to be celibate to progress spiritually.
"And I believed in that . I just couldn't stand being kissed or touched. When we flew to Switzerland and asked the Maharishi what was wrong with me, all he did was roar with laughter and tell me to go on more courses. And then, after all those years, my husband and I realised that it was one big con-trick."
Linda's 42-year-old husband Peter said: "When I confronted the Maharishi about sleeping with my wife he just laughed. "She was having terrible psychological problems because of it, but he said that I should take her to the psychiatrist. He never denied it."
When the Beatles tagged on to the Maharishi with the insane giggle and the message of peace, the honeymoon did not last long.
"We made a mistake," said Paul McCartney after leaving the cult's settlement at Rishikesh on the banks of India's Ganges.
John Lennon told how they quit after he confronted the guru about sex allegations. He said: "There was a hullabaloo about him trying to rape Mia Farrow and a few other women, and things like that. The whole gang charged down to his hut. I was the spokesman, as usual, and said: 'We're leaving!' He asked why and I said: 'Well, if you're so cosmic, you'll know why.' He and his right-hand men were always intimating that he did miracles.The Maharishi gave me a look that said: 'I'll kill you, you bastard!'"
In his book, Lennon Remembers, the ex-Beatle revealed that he originally wrote his song Sexy Sadie about the Maharishi. But he added: "I copped out and I wouldn't write Maharishi, what have you done? You've made a fool of everyone."
The guru's man in Britain, Jonathan Hynde, who holds the grand title of Minister for the Development of Consciousness, defended his leader at their sumptuous £250,000 Mentmore Towers stately home H.Q.
Ex-public school boy Hynde, 26, said, "The Maharishi is celibate. He's a monk. He just couldn't lower himself to talk of this sort of thing. Mrs Pearce can say what she likes. I'll deny it on the Maharishi's behalf."
Beside him was James Macrae, Minister of Prosperity and Progress. He said: "This allegation just cannot be true."
Mr Hynde added: "There's no rule in the movement that followers have to be celibate."
But he revealed that 11 Ministers live at Mentmore and none of them is married. Then Mr Macrae added proudly: "One is now engaged."
Mr Hynde said: "The Pearces and other complainants couldn't have followed the courses properly."
The courses were designed to carry out the Maharishi's philosophy that if only one per cent of the world took up meditation, tensions that breed war would shrink from danger point.
They also made vast profits for him.
In England alone, 100,000 people paid about £20 each for the simplest meditation course. Advanced courses cost up to £2,000 a time and have funded T.M.'s luxurious international HQ in Switzerland, bank accounts in Zurich, London and Jersey, and factories in Germany and Austria.
The movement is believed to have £8 million playing the world money markets. And a fleet of Mercedes, a helicopter and airliner are all at the guru's service.