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'We avoided any kind of armed conflict': Netflix's 'Wild, Wild Country' and Oregon history


Much of the history of the commune is preserved at the University of Oregon library, home to the world's largest collection of Rajneeshee artifacts, from prayer pillows to branded eye shadow and a certificate for joining signed by the Bhagwan himself.
Much of the history of the commune is preserved at the University of Oregon library, home to the world's largest collection of Rajneeshee artifacts, from prayer pillows to branded eye shadow and a certificate for joining signed by the Bhagwan himself.
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EUGENE, Ore. - They came in the summer of 1981, and little did Oregon know the Rajneeshees would forever be rooted in state history.

"I think it's a story that has all of the elements that we all love," said Eugene attorney William Gary, who had a front row seat as then-Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer's deputy. "There's sex and drugs and rock and roll."

Decades later, the Rajneeshees are just as mysterious and fascinating as they were the day they moved to Antelope, Oregon.

The 1980s commune is back in the limelight with the Netflix series "Wild, Wild Country".

The commune was founded on the religious and meditative teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

The group attracted highly educated, affluent followers known for wearing sunset-shaded clothing.

The group became infamous for their scandalous and ultimately illegal actions, like poisoning a city and attempting to assassinate law enforcement officials.

"It made life a little uncomfortable and at times all-consuming," Gary recalled. "There was a certain inevitability to the collapse of the commune."

Gary said it was a combination of the law and the commune's own internal drama that led to its dispersement by the end of the decade.

Fast forward nearly four decades and people are still mesmerized by it all.

"Seeing this extreme and people going, 'Hmm I wonder if that could that happen again' is a very interesting way of drawing people in," said Marion Goldman, a University of Oregon professor emeritus who studied the Rajneeshees.

Much of the history of the commune is preserved at the University library, home to the world's largest collection of Rajneesh artifacts, from prayer pillows to branded eye shadow and a certificate for joining signed by the Bhagwan himself.

Ultimately, the Bhagwan left the country over immigration issues.

"We avoided any kind of armed conflict in a circumstance where there was plenty of heat and lots of potential for that to occur," Gary said.

It's that narrow miss that so many people find intriguing to this day, he said - as well as the core struggle to which many people can relate.

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"Individual freedom and religious freedom versus the well being of the whole," Gary said. "That is a struggle that is perpetual."

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