Delusion and Deception
He's really not so transcendental
A true master of mental manipulation has targeted
Washington, D.C. He calls himself Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His devotees
adore him, simply, as "Maharishi." He sells Transcendental Meditation,
with a Capital "M." It differs from many kinds of small "m" meditation.
So better examine it carefully before you buy.
His trademarked product, TMTM, has reputedly
made him a billionaire. He lives reclusively on a luxury estate in
Holland, far from the tax collectors of his former headquarters, in India,
Switzerland and the U.S.A. But Maharishi's agents are again in
Washington, D.C., hunting for government funds to propagate TM and
donations from unwary individuals.
Public funding by the District of Columbia, the federal
government or a state would be unlawful because TM is a religion not the
science it pretends to be. Donations would be unwise because TM can harm
people in the large doses Maharishi promotes though it carries no warning
TM is a religion
Federal courts ruled years ago that Maharishi's TM is a
religion (Malnak v. Yogi, 440 F.Supp. 1284 (1977), affirmed, 592 F.2d 197
(3rd Cir. 1979). Government funding to propagate TM is therefore
During the Carter Administration the Department of
Health, Education & Welfare (HEW) and the New Jersey Department of
Education funded an "experiment" to teach TM and its "Science of Creative
Intelligence" (TM/SCI) as an elective in five public high schools.
Teachers specially trained by TM taught students four or five days a
week. If it "worked" the course would be taught statewide.
Several parents, the Spiritual Counterfeits Project,
Inc. (a Christian group based in Berkeley, California) and Americans
United for Separation of Church and State asked the U.S. District Court
for New Jersey to enjoin this experiment. These plaintiffs argued that TM
was a religion and that the teaching of TM in public schools and the
government funding were both an "Establishment of Religion" in violation
of the First Amendment to the Constitution. TM representatives argued
that TM is a secular science, not a religion.
Federal Judge J. Curtis Meanor ruled that TM is a
religion. He enjoined HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano, Jr., N.J.
Commissioner Fred G. Burke, school officials and TM's umbrella
organization itself from using public funds to propagate TM. The Third
Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia unanimously affirmed. Judge
Meanor's injunction is still in effect today.
These judges looked to the religious nature of
Maharishi's SCI textbook, which was being taught, and the religious nature
of his puja initiation ceremony, which TMers must go through individually
to receive their secret meditation mantra. Without that mantra it is
impossible to practice TM.
At the compulsory puja ceremony, held outside the school
building, each student brought some fruit, flowers and a clean white
handkerchief that were taken and laid on a table in a closed room. The
student's teacher would bow and make offerings many times to an 8" by 12"
color photograph of Guru Dev, said to be Maharishi's teacher, who had died
in the 1950s. Each student's teacher also sang a chant in Sanksrit and
the student received "his own personal mantra which is never to be
revealed to any other person." (592 F.2d at 198.)
TM witnesses swore that the chant was a purely secular
expression of gratitude to teachers. However, Judge Meanor read an
English translation prepared by TM and found not one word of thanks in
it. Rather, the chant describes a deified Guru Dev as "the Lord" and
"Him" (with a capital H), among a slew of divine epithets quoted by
Judge Meanor. For example:
The Unbounded, like the endless canopy of the sky, the omnipresent in all
creation to Him, to Shri Guru Dev, I bow down, the Eternal, the Pure, the
Immovable ... to Shri Guru Dev, I bow down.
Nonetheless, a Catholic priest,
Protestant minister and Jewish rabbi who practiced TM, testified that TM
and the puja chant had no religious meaning even after they had read
TM's English translation. For example, Rabbi Harry Sprig of Los Angeles
practiced TM, recommended it to his congregants, called it "primarily a
scientific technique," studied Maharishi's SCI and somehow found no
conflict between his own religion and either the translated text or the
accompanying ceremony. In sharp contrast, Rabbi Seymour Siegel, Professor
of Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, swore
that in "the cultural setting of the United States and in the tradition
of both Hebrew and Christian theology" such terms are "descriptive
exclusively of a Supreme Being or God."
Researchers will find that the
District Court opinion in Malnak v. Yogi extensively excerpts Maharishi's
"scientific" SCI textbook and reprints the full text of his puja ceremony
TM is not a science
TM's "scientific" claims as a branch of physics are
spurious. Physicist Heinz R. Pages, Ph.D., executive director of The New
York Academy of Sciences, prepared an affidavit on behalf of ex-TMer
Robert Kropinski in 1986 for a court case here in Washington, D.C. Pagels
wrote as a "theoretical physicist specializing in the area of quantum
My summary opinion is that the views expressed in the
literature issued by [TM] that purport to find a connection between the
recent ideas of theoretical physics unified field theory, the vacuum
state and collective phenomena and states of consciousness attained by
transcendental meditation are false and profoundly misleading. No
qualified physicist that I know would claim to find such a connection
without knowingly committing fraud.
TM hurts people
Maharishi's lieutenants speak of promoting 20-minute
doses of relaxation. How could that really hurt you (even if how-to
lessons and "your own" secret mantra were overpriced at $600)?
They don't tell you about the advanced (Sidhi) courses
(priced at over $2,000) that Maharashi began to sell in the late 1970s.
Advanced TMers meditate for hours at a time. That can stimulate delusions
TM insists it can teach you to levitate and fly. ("Yogic
flying" lessons may cost $3,000.) TMers don't really fly. They hop, from
a cross-legged yoga position. They develop awesomely powerful thigh
muscles. They may develop aches. After hop, hop, hopping across a room,
TMers coming out of their altered mental state may believe that they flew
even though it never happened. Major TV programs have shown how "flying"
TMers really hop. You can borrow a videotape to see for yourself.
The Washington City Paper reported (July 13, 1990, p.
14) that former TM teacher and yogic flyer Diane Hendel: "saw little
creatures with wings" during intensive meditation periods. They were like
my pets. They'd tell me things. " Hendel was encouraged to believe that
these winged beasties were "devas" Hindu spirits of nature. "I began
not to be able to tell who was a person and who was a deva," she said.
Hendel sought counseling, eventually quit meditating, and left the
Intensive meditation can make TMers seem lifeless or
flat, their personalities crushed and buried, devoid of emotion. In some
cases, the meditator may go into involuntary meditation, which could be
devastating if driving a car or at many kinds of jobs. Stanford
psychologist Leon S. Otis (who believed many people could benefit from the
20-minute relaxation) concluded that his data raise serious doubts about
the innocuous nature of TM. In fact, they suggest that TM may be
hazardous to the mental health of a sizable proportion of the people who
take up TM. (Adverse Effects of Transcendental Meditation, Update: A
Quarterly Journal of New Religious Movements, 9, 37-50 ).
Maharishi has taught devotees that a TMer is healthfully
"unstressing" when symptoms of distress accompany his meditation. Ex-TMers
have sued TM, alleging severe harms. TM has generally settled out of
court, including cases in Washington, D.C.
TM's failure to communicate "warning labels"
Dr. Otis urged TM to "publicly recognize that problems
may be engendered by meditation and so instruct potential initiates as
well as to provide guidelines to both the general public and the
psychotherapeutic profession for their amelioration." An ethical guru
would prepare for harmful side effects, and would immediately instruct
sufferers to ease off on their meditation. Instead of "warning labels"
about harmful side effects, however, Maharishi taught his aides to welcome
adverse symptoms as evidence of "unstressing" and to encourage even more
Debunking the "Maharishi Effects"
It is intensive, prolonged meditating that TM promotes
and for which it claims all kinds of marvelous "Maharishi effects" when it
is performed by masses of meditators. It is hard to keep up with TM's
claims for mass meditation. TM's "intellectual" center at Fairfield,
Iowa, called "Maharishi International University" (MIU) churns them out.
TMers claimed they influenced the weather at MIU while
concrete was poured for buildings (the "Domes") in which hundreds could
meditate. A dispassionate study showed that the concrete contractor
checked the National Weather Forecast each time before deciding to make a
delivery the next day and that the meditators sought warm weather only
later in the day, after the forecast on which the contractor relied was
already made. (Trumpy, An Investigation of the Reported Effect of
Transcendental Meditation on the Weather, The Skeptical Inquirer, VIII,
143 [Winter 1983/84]).
TMers claimed that if 1% of a city s population
meditates regularly the crime rate would go down. In Fairfield, Iowa, 13%
of the population meditates, yet crime has not gone down. (Randi, Flim-Flam,
cited in Rational Enquirer, newsletter of the BC Skeptics [Vancouver April
TMers claimed that meditators massed in Jerusalem in
1983 brought about social benefits including "a solution to conflicts in
the region that were impossible of solution until now." Mordecai Kaffman,
Director of the Research Department of the Kibbutz Child and Family
Clinic, dismissed TM methods as unscientific and TM "claims of positive
results in the Israeli context" as unconvincing; he branded TM's theory of
"unified field" as incredible. (The Use of Transcendental Meditation to
Promote Social Progress in Israel, Cultic Studies Journal, 3:1 ).
TM is a tyrannical sell-out of the New Age
Pulitzer prize winner Michael D'Antonio recently
surveyed the status and varieties of the "New Age" movement in America.
He discusses TM in Chapter 6 of HEAVEN ON EARTH DISPATCHES FROM
AMERICA'S SPIRITUAL FRONTIER (Crown 1992). As a friend of the New Age,
who wanted to find something positive in TM, D'Antonio concludes:
I would have welcomed the discovery of a middle way, a path to
spirituality that was consistent with reason. But TM, as it is practiced
at MIU, isn't a middle ground. For the first time in my travels through
New Age America, I worried that I was observing a cult rather than a
culture . MIU and the Maharishi would take control of everything right
down to matters of food, shelter, and child rearing for the most devout.
TMers, D'Antonio sadly concludes, "have accepted rigid,
authoritarian control in exchange for security. Far from being a place
where individuals grow and innovate, the Fairfield TM community is
regimented and constricted. All conflict, doubt, perhaps even all genuine
emotion, is stifled and covered over with a pleasant veneer."
The Department of Education recently published the
student loan default rates for all universities and other participating
institutions in the country. MIU was listed as a 5-year private
institution with 175 student loan borrowers in 1992; of whom 12.9% were in
default (the highest default rate of any 4 or 5 year college or university
in Iowa). As a taxpayer, you are already subsidizing MIU. Think twice
before giving TM any more.