David Lynch's German guru angers students with Goebbels rallying cry

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The Independent Online

Plans by the Hollywood film director David Lynch to build a "Transcendental Meditation" university in Berlin have provoked a storm of criticism in Germany after the project's chief guru used a phrase of Hitler's propaganda minister in promoting the scheme.

Mr Lynch, an Oscar- nominated director whose films include The Elephant Man and Mullholland Drive, when unveiling plans recently for his unorthodox university claimed that its students would be freed from " warlike aggression".

However, his attempts to promote the project, before an audience of students at Berlin's Urania Theatre last week, have backfired. Mr Lynch, who does not speak German, watched as his white-robed German guru Emanuel Schiffgens told the students about the university's aim to raise human awareness and understanding. But he then shocked them with language that could have been lifted straight from a speech by Joseph Goebbels.

Mr Schiffgens, who also wore a golden crown and claimed to be the "raja" or prince of Germany, declared: "Invincible Germany! Invincible Germany! – I want to hear you all say 'Invincible Germany!'"

In a country that has spent much of the past half-century attempting to atone for the evils of the Nazi era, his exhortations did not go down well. The raja was booed and shouted down.

One audience member yelled: "That's exactly what Hitler wanted." Mr Schiffgens further enraged the audience when he replied: "Yes, but unfortunately he didn't succeed." The row brought the uncomprehending Mr Lynch to his feet to tell the students: "I don't know what he said but I think I understand that he used a word from the Third Reich. Let's just look at it this way, it's a new world now."

Plans for Mr Lynch's universities in Europe are already under way in Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria and Scotland, where the university is co-sponsored by the 1960s folk singer Donovan.

The universities will combine traditional academic subjects with the meditation techniques developed in the 1950s by the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose following included the Beatles.