Interesting data about the population in Rajneeshpuram collected by the University of Oregon in 1983 – by Roshani.
Rajneeshpuram was a unique experiment and, as such, attracted attention from several scholars. Ted Shay and myself, political science professors at Willamette University and Western Oregon University, wrote about political and legal issues in published articles and a booklet entitled ‘Rajneeshpuram and the Abuse of Power’ (the abuse being by 1,000 Friends of Oregon and state agencies, by the way).
Ron Clarke, professor of religion at Oregon State University, wrote about Osho’s viewpoint on spirituality in several articles. Mimi Goldman, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, wrote articles about sannyasins and a book about women in particular called ‘Passionate Journeys’.
There was also a group of psychologists from the University of Oregon, professors Norm Sundberg and Richards Littman and Hagan, and graduate student named Carl Latkin, who wrote articles and a dissertation out of data they collected at the Ranch. This latter group published a research note in the journal Sociological Analysis in 1987 which conveyed a demographic and psychological picture of Ranch residents gathered from surveys done in 1983.
Their findings were pretty interesting. 54% of residents were women. The average age was around 34 and74% of residents were married. The other 26% either single, divorced, widowed or separated. 65% reported that they were living with their spouses. 75% had been sannyasins for more than 3 years, nearly half for more than 5 years and 63% had lived at an Osho center before moving to the Ranch. 91% were Caucasian and 60% reported themselves as not being religious before taking sannyas. When asked “How did you first hear of Rajneeshism?” 40% mentioned friends and 30% said books or tapes.
Ranch residents were incredibly well educated compared to the general population, 95% having graduated from high school and 64% from university. Fully 36% of the residents had a masters or doctoral degree. About 60% of the degrees were in arts and humanities or social sciences. Almost 50% of Ranch residents came from cities of 100,000 or larger, an urban group, to be sure. 62% professed liberal or radical politics, and 36% said they were neither liberal nor conservative. 66% said the highest earned income they had seen was $30,000 a year or less.
As for psychological well-being and mental health, these sannyasins scored quite high as compared to the general population. 93% reported being in the top two categories of life satisfaction. Their mean rating on the Perceived Stress Scale was 15.22, much lower as compared to 23.34 for the general population in one study. The mean score on the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List was 37.91 as compared to 36.5, the higher score indicating more perceived social support. The mean on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale was 5.86, much lower than a study which yielded means of 7.94 to 9.25 for US Caucasians. On the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale the mean was 35.71 as compared to a general study of 29.82, much higher.
These findings were summarized as showing that Ranch residents scored much higher on measures of affluence, education, mental health and psychological well-being than the US population as a whole and than members of other so-called ‘new religions’. Of course, those in the community knew that. But it seems that such positive data got overlooked in the flurry of media attention to Rajneeshpuram. I just thought you might be interested.
Text by Roshani Shay, PhD for Osho News