The following is a chapter from the book “Healers, Gurus, and Spiritual Guides,” written by former CBS News Correspondent William Wolff. This is a profile of Roy Masters at the very beginning of his career.
It started out to be a pleasant enough luncheon at the Paramount motion picture studio commissary. My host, a talented screenwriter–keenly interested in the dynamics of suggestion–was questioning me about something I had said during a lecture concerning the predictability of human behavior. I was finishing my Jerry Lewis salad and was combating the temptation to order the calorie-laden dessert being gulped down by some of the Bonanza cast sitting at the next table (talk about the power of suggestion . . . ), when my friend casually asked, “How’s the new book coming along, Bill?”
“Real fine,” I answered, grateful for the momentary distraction from the ever-beckoning pastry-and-whipped-cream glob that Dan Blacker (garbed in his Hoses Cartwright costume) was shoveling into his smiling satisfied face. “Just this last weekend I completed a chapter on a really interesting fellow.”
“His name is Roy Masters and . . . ”
Whammo! Unknowingly, I had lit a fuse.
“You’re writing about him? That no-good . . . ”
The violent reaction amazed me. What had happened? The good-natured, easy-going companion I was lunching with seemed to have vanished, and in his place was a very angry man. “Why in the hell are you wasting time on somebody like him? You sure must be a fool, Wolff.”
Now I was getting upset. “What has Roy Masters ever done to you?”
“Never you mind about that.”
Much of his turbulence had subsided, but his face was still contorted by anger. Was it a rarely-used mask, this taut, flushed, narrow-eyed? Or was this his real-life countenance, the pleasant smile and affability being the disguise?
“Why are you writing about the guy? There must be a hundred. . . a thousand others more important to put down in print.”
I tried to explain that Roy Masters had a large and loyal following and was apparently helping a considerable number of people. In fact, earlier that week, I had run into Donna Douglas, the shapely, blonde ingenue star of the Beverly Hillbillies television series. She had told me, “Mr. Masters is a fine and principled person . . . one of the few.”
There were many others in the entertainment industry who felt the same way, and I mentioned the names of a few of the celebrities that I knew attended the Foundation of Human Understanding lectures, listened to Roy on the air, and utilized his technique of meditation.
Wise in the ways of show-business folk, the screen-writer was unimpressed. “For Heaven’s sake, Bill,” he said, grabbing my arm and leaning across the table, “actors are like children and not very bright ones at that. They can be taken in by anybody. Look at all the stars who dig that Maharishi character. He’s also pushing this meditation stuff.”
“I know all about the old gent. I had some in-depth conversations with him when he first came over,” I explained. “But believe me, the two men, their approaches and what they teach, are poles apart.” Why, I wondered, was I defending Roy Masters?
“They’re all alike . . . frauds,” he spat out.
His voice was getting louder, and I glanced over my shoulder a little apprehensively. “Have you really, and I mean really, checked this guy Masters out? A good reporter goes after all the facts. Just who has he helped . . . I mean besides actors?”
I countered: “Lots of people, and not only show business types either. Listen, I did a pretty thorough job on his background, his technology, and his organization.”
My friend (or was it my former friend?) pulled an expensive gold cigarette case from his Sigh Devore sports coat, clicked it open, withdrew a filter-tipped “coffin nail” (his own negative concept), and lit up. He took a couple of puffs and seemed to calm down a bit. Something he had just said sparked a thoughts.
“You know, I think you just gave me a worthwhile idea.”
“I’m going to interview a lot more people who claim Roy Masters’ meditation helped them. I mean helped them in a big way.”
He was frowning as he reminded me, “I thought you already finished the chapter on him.”
“So, I’ll do another one on him.” I couldn’t help adding, “Like I said, he’s interesting copy.”
He was almost his old self as we drank our coffee. There was a markedly less hostile atmosphere, and I began to probe . . . . subtly, of course. Just why had he reacted the way he had? What was the basis for such an emotional flare-up? Friend or not, I was going to find out. After all, he had only himself to blame (s reporter’s rationalization). By the time we strolled to the parking lot, I knew the reason for his reaction.
It seems that after a year or so of listening to Roy Masters’ radio programs and meditating daily, the screen-writer’s wife had “changed.” And the outraged husband insisted it was all for the bad.
What had actually happened, apparently, was that the lady in question–after many years of marriage–had finally seen through some of her husband’s devious tactics, methods he employed to get his way no matter what anyone else desired. He had ruled his domain like a monarch. But now, something had happened. Emancipation had come. His formerly “obedient” wife was “different.” I wanted to know how she was different. He was vague.
“Between you and me, Bill, it’s really bothering me . . . the way my wife looks at me. She never. . . reacts. I don’t mean she never talks. Hell, she talks more than before . . . and you wouldn’t believe what she tells me. I mean, she’s insultingly honest. And now the kids are starting it. Imagine a twelve-year-old telling his own father that . . . that I was . . .’a wrong trying to look right’ . . . ”
In addition to no longer responding in panic to “Big Daddy’s ” mercurial changes of mood, the family–or so they claimed–now knew why he was doing what he was, even though he didn’t quite know himself. They were seeing right through the smoke screen. The throne was wobbly and the Emperor unnerved. The subjects refused to kneel.
“I feel . . . . naked,” he sputtered, “and, damn it, I don’t like what’s happened one bit. Roy Masters is to blame!”
It was only with great effort that I managed not to laugh out loud. He would never have forgiven me. In my car, safely out of earshot, I giggled like an idiot. A king one day, and the court jester the nest. It could happen to any of us.
Driving up Melrose toward Gower, I wondered how I would reach a wide selection of people who were meditationg by Roy Masters’ method. By the time I pulled into the CBS parking lot, I had an idea kicking around. Inside my office, all thoughts of my book, Masters, and meditiation were pushed aside as I tackled a desk full of work. But around seven o’clock that evening, as I rode the elevator down to the lobby and headed toward my car, my thoughts drifted back to the plan. And before reaching my home in Manhattan Beach, I had mentally finalizedit.
Later that week, I presented myself a little before air time and told Roy Masters I wanted him to announce that I was interested in hearing from anyone who had personally had some sort of a healing, or solved a serious problem, or had anything special happen as a direct result of the meditaiton. He was just about to begin his public service broadcast when he got an idea.
“Better than me making an announcement, Bill, why don’t you come on the broadcast and tell the listeners just exactly what you want?
It seemed logical, so I agreed and appeared on the program. I made my request to his audience.
At least fifty people responded immediately to my request. I’m certain that if I had asked Roy to really push it three times that many would have volunteered to talk of their healings. Besides the calls, there were numerous letters as a result of my appearance. Since my time was limited, I told Roy not to encourage any more response. Just following through on the people who had already called was going to eat up a great deal of my writing of fiction, who, in my weaker moments, I imagine to be free from the routine of research, just sitting beside his pool creating.
I mentioned letters. The Foundation of Human Understanding receives a tremendous amount of mail daily and I was allowed free access to the correspondence as it came in. One of the letters struck me as being pretty typical and illustrating why Roy Masters’ organization is flourishing:
. . . .Since practicing the meditation and looking to my inward self my life has completely changed in many areas. I was a nurse for ten years and was in charge of an emergency hospital. It gave me up, as you most aptly say time and again. Now I am staying home where I belong with my children and husband–a place I should have been five years ago. All the good things that have happened to us as a family are too numerous to mention here, but if we had never heard your radio broadcast we would still be wandering around in the dark.
Very truly yours,
A Friend in Truth