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On Divine Manifestation

Emery Isip

God is your mom banging on your door, wakeupwakeupwakeupWe’reLate, and buttoning the top button of your nicest button-up shirt; the scrape of the comb across your scalp; the feeling of your collar choking you, of being chased into the car, of trying and failing to be some kind of invisible as you creep into the church, mid-sermon.


The Oregon dirt that was Big Muddy Ranch is a little over four times larger than Manhattan, a little under four times larger than my hometown. The nearest town is Antelope, Oregon—population 47, as of 2012, which is seven more than in 1981, when money traded hands and Big Muddy Ranch became Rajneeshpuram.

The price of a promised land is a little under six million dollars.


God is broken promises between parents, and for almost a year they don’t set foot in a church.

God is the cross in your room at your grandmother’s house, and the cross in the hall, and the cross in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the dining room, the garage, the living room, the don’t-set-foot-in-there room; God is a million times bigger than you can imagine, and always watching.

God is Catholic school and Wednesday morning mass and copying the way the girls tuck their skirts in before sitting in the pew.


Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is a mystic, not a god, but he will guide you to the promised land, to a universal religiousness.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is a blur of beard and cloth to his flock, an invitation to utopia, an escape route.


Rajneeshpuram is listed as an “intentional community;” Antelopers, like the government, like most people, called it a cult. Seven thousand Rajneeshee’s hung their pink/orange/red robes there, washed their bare feet, and called it home, Mecca, their belonging.


God is Wednesday night church, where you can wear whatever you want. There are no Catholic burpees (sit, stand, greet, kneel, sing, line up, sit, repeat). You tell your Methodist friend who brought you that the college student at the altar didn’t look old enough to be called “Father,” your friend says, “Oh, we just call him Greg.”

God is stage lights and a drummer behind plexiglass and Christ, slipped in between Christian pop/rock/country lyrics, dying so that you could choose to belong in his intentional community.


God is a last-minute prayer before your SATs, before you open the letter, before you leave the nest.

God is the way he looks in jeans, and out of jeans, and in your bed, or the way he looked at you before he knew you cheated.

God is 3 a.m. with a good buzz going, the joke you make about getting behind the wheel, the dizzy feeling just before you do.


Notable followers of Rajneesh: a prince, a rock star, the editor of HuffPo, a philosopher, a television actress. So many people are lonely, but so few cults end like this.


After the town council had been taken over; after the county salad bar was sprinkled with salmonella—751 infected, 45 hospitalized, the largest biochemical warfare attack in U.S. history; after the bombing of Hotel Rajneesh; after the largest criminal investigation in Oregon history, the once-Big Muddy Ranch became property of the state.


God is whatever gets you through the day, your attempt at stasis, what’s left after the dust settles.

God is a way to belong, worth imploding your life for, the biggest scam in world history.

God is what you’re willing to do for whoever you get on your knees for.

Emery Isip is a peddler of creative nonfiction, a native Texan, and an all-around decent person. Their work can be found or is forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine, Gertrude Press, Redivider, The Cincinnati Review, and Wildness, among others. They prefer wine from the box. You can stalk them on Twitter at @HGeosits.