It was a new year but the young Rawat was living in la la land. He had Guru Maharaj Ji's Address to World Leaders published in the Divine Times magazine and a 1976 Letter To Premies in which he wrote that their potential was so great this year should be a very successful one and they could spread this Knowledge in leaps and bounds. In fact, it would be the most unsuccessful year so far in which the ashrams would empty, the cash flow would dry up and the premies would do pretty well everything but what Rawat wanted. It "was a time of rampant questioning and restructuring when the ashrams emptied and the organization seemed about to fold." Lucy Dupertuis acknowledged these changes, "premies gathered not in 'satsang' and but in 'workshops'" and "the national organization soon fell to pieces, the Denver International Headquarters crumbled, the ashrams emptied, and many premies embarked on marriage or careers" while "premies held parties and dances" with "more conventional means of intoxication." However, she gave a more nuanced picture: "even during this time … still premies believed in Guru Maharaj Ji and in 'surrender'."
In a surreal scenario, an extreme right-wing lobby group, The Citizens' Congress, that was well-known at the time for their strong support of President Nixon, invited the Guru Maharaji to speak at a Bi-Centenary function at the Mayflower Hotel. Speakers at the luncheon included infamous far-right segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond and soon to be disgraced U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz who was convicted of tax-evasion in 1981. Rennie Davis would have rolled over in his grave had he been dead.
It was decided that the best way to present Guru Maharaj Ji was as a "humanitarian leader" and the instructions to premies and the publicity began. Mishler believed Rawat had agreed to these changes. Exactly how you go from being Lord of the Universe to humanitarian leader and maintain credibility was not successfully resolved. Many premies were confused by these changes, but others merely viewed these as the latest attempts to make Maharaji more acceptable to a wider population for propagation purposes. A Denver journalist heard that people were leaving the ashrams in droves and it was left to Mishler to try and put positive spin on the situation. From the beginning of June donations fell sharply and by August one third of the ashram residents had left taking their incomes with them and this was reported in the mainstream press. Bob Mishler, who had come to see Rawat up close and personal from the time of the "family feud" was completely fed up with Rawat's alcohol abuse and out of control spending that was destroying the organization. The management team decided to sell the Malibu mansion and haul in the reins of Rawat's spending binges.
The extent to which Maharaji accepted these changes is unclear. A series of programs were held in Europe and North America at which much of the Hindu trappings (Krishna costumes, Bolie Shris, etc) were missing. Maharaji appeared at these programs in suits and darshan was changed from filing by and kissing his feet, to a sort of "receiving line" in which the premies merely filed by and nodded, waved, smiled or placed their head on a pillow in front of him but arti was still sometimes sung. Maharaji appeared to accept these changes in his usual passive-aggressive way though he later made clear his opposition to them.
Plans to create an investment fund to allow Rawat to maintain his opulent lifestyle were decided upon but the DLM cash flow dropped enormously as people left the ashrams and stopped donating their entire salaries and became involved in a more normal family life. Rawat came to Denver to meet the Executive Committee of DLM, fired Mishler and the non-sycophants and installed Dettmers as his Personal Manager. Rawat stated "Knowledge without devotion to Maharaji is nothing". Rawat's followers have accused Mishler of failing to meditate which "put him in his mind" and caused him to act badly. This is an explanation that only makes sense to a devotee. However in later years many DLM senior administrators including Michael Dettmers, Mike Donner and Mike Finch have corroborated Mishler's explanation of the facts. The Perfect Master, Guru Maharaj Ji, had developed a serious drinking problem.
However, he continued to stress his unique importance. On August 21 he wrote "you heed to the direction of the Master, so that he may be able to guide you through -- so that we may be able to realize the aim of human life" and "spread the Word, the Word of God to all human beings." On September 12 he wrote "be assured that I am looking after you." He took steps to ensure that his total control would never again be challenged and began a new era of devotion, along with a reinstatement of the ashrams. He left no doubt about this change at a national coordinators conference in Frankfurt, Germany in late 1976, where he lambasted the DLM national coordinators for failing to understand that the only purpose in a premie's life was devotion to him. He said that premies had gotten confused, "in their minds", "spaced out", and had become focused on themselves instead of on him.
On the 10th December he was given an Aston-Martin birthday present. His wife had "secretly" requested donations for it as he apparently spoke of little else. He was so happy to get it and he was so short.
On the 18th December he spoke at a meeting in Atalantic City before a few thousand premies. He desperately needed to do something so dressed up for the occasion just like Daddy did, sitting on stage dressed-up as Krishna so he can be adored by the 3,000 excited premies while they sang arti. By 1978, when this had become passé, he began to dance on stage.
To their surprise and delight he was no longer a humanitarian leader but the Lord of the Universe come to earth in a human body and they kissed his feet, I mean really got down and kissed his divine Lotus Feet, sobbing and fainting and surprising and shocking the investigative reporters Stoner & Parke. and James Downton who had a more indepth but credulous understanding.
Although many of the premies who had left in 1976 began coming back to the fold, many did not and returnees came back burdened with family and children unable even if willing to dedicate all their resources to Rawat. Despite his own poor judgement and complicity in the changes in 1976, Maharaji repeatedly blamed the premies for what he saw as the debacle of 1976. For years to come, "1976" was synonymous with "spaced out" to premies.