The ending of Netflix's new documentary series proves there's no such thing as one side to a story.
The little-discussed, explosive history of Oregon-based "sex cult" Rajneeshpuram is the subject of new Netflix documentary series Wild, Wild Country. The six-part series, which was produced by Room 104's Mark and Jay Duplass, tells the story of spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his second-in-command Ma Anand Sheela, and the tensions between Rajneesh's enlightenment-seeking commune and the conservative residents of Antelope, Oregon.
The town of Antelope was just outside of where Rajneesh and his "sannyasins" settled on an expansive ranch. The 60-person town was most unwelcoming of its new, New Age-y neighbors — and those neighbors retaliated to such intolerance with great force.
The documentary series explores how a 1983 bombing of a Rajneeshpuram-owned hotel, as well as increased intolerance of the religious organization from the town around it, led to what can only be described as an all-out war between these two radically different communities. Tensions and fierce protectiveness of her people led Sheela to allegedly orchestrate what is still known as the largest bioterror attack in the United States. Arguably the documentary series' most captivating and controversial figure, Sheela also allegedly ordered multiple incidents of wiretapping, one arson, and several attempted murders.
Was Sheela simply defending her people from a community hellbent on driving Rajneeshpuram out, or was she truly terrorizing Antelope, as many residents claimed within Wild, Wild Country? The documentary series never quite tells us — instead, it wants us to decide where everyone falls on this spectrum of morality.
Perhaps the only thing more fascinating than Netflix's new documentary series Wild, Wild Country is the fate of some of its most prominent figures. How does this story — one that so few people seem to know about in the first place — actually end? It actually concludes quite differently for the several people highlighted within the documentary.
The man who started it all, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was deported from the United States in 1985 after pleading guilty to violations of the immigration law. He settled in India in 1986, after being denied permanent entry by multiple countries. He returned to teaching at his ashram in Pune, where he was welcomed by his followers. In 1990, Rajneesh, whose health was failing, died at age 58. In the documentary series, Sheela suggested that Rajneesh was actually poisoned by the advisors closest to him.
Sheela served 29 months of her 20-year-sentence in a federal prison. She then moved to Switzerland, where she runs a home for the elderly and those with mental disabilities, seemingly to this day. In 2013, Sheela published a memoir titled Don't Kill Him!: The Story of My Life with Bhagwan Rajneesh. Sheela, per her interviews in Wild, Wild Country, seemingly has no remorse for her actions.
But certain people do feel remorse — like Sheela's insider Jane Stork, who was convicted of attempted murder and served three years in jail. After serving her time in prison, she fled to Germany, which was just before the FBI uncovered another assassination attempt on U.S. District Attorney Charles Turner. Germany refused to extradite Stork back to the United States, and so she lived as a free woman — until she learned her son had a terminal brain tumor. She went back to the United States in hopes that, in doing so, they would allow her to visit her son, who was dying in her home country of Australia from a brain tumor. The judge ultimately was merciful towards Stork, and granted her time served.
In 2009, Stork wrote a memoir about her time at Rajneeshpuram, titled Breaking the Spell: My Life as a Rajneeshee and the Long Journey Back to Freedom. Unlike Sheela, Stork no longer identifies as a follower of Rajneesh's teachings.
Yet Swami Prem Niren, Rajneesh's lawyer, does feel a strong connection to Rajneesh. For Niren, who spoke extensively in the documentary, Rajneeshpuram was a community ruined by intolerance. At the end of Wild, Wild Country, Niren declares that he is working on his own book — one that will likely be more pro-Rajneesh than Stork's memoir.
As for the ranch which stirred so much controversy? That, too, is very much changed — well, depending on how one looks at it. It's now a Christian youth camp.
How the various characters view this dark time in Oregonian history, and how they moved on from it, is just more evidence that there's no real truth to what happened at Rajneesh's ranch — only many perspectives on it.