TM-Sidhi program

TM-Sidhi program

The TM-Sidhi program is a form of meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1975. It is based on, and described as a natural extension of the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM).[1][2] The purpose of the TM-Sidhi program is to accelerate the benefits gained from the TM technique by training the mind to think from the level of what is called within the TM organization as Transcendental Consciousness.[citation needed] Transcendental Consciousness is described as the fourth state of consciousness.[3]

Skeptics have called TM or its associated theories and technologies a "pseudoscience".[4][5][6] Independent systematic reviews have not found health benefits for TM beyond relaxation or health education.[7][8][9] It is difficult to determine definitive effects of meditation practices in healthcare as the quality of research has design limitations and a lack of methodological rigor.[7][10][11] Part of this difficulty is because studies have the potential for bias due to the connection of researchers to the TM organization, and enrollment of subjects with a favorable opinion of TM.[12][13][not in citation given]

"Yogic Flying", a mental-physical exercise of hopping while cross-legged,[14][15] is a central aspect of the TM-Sidhi program. The TM website says that "research has shown a dramatic and immediate reduction in societal stress, crime, violence, and conflict—and an increase in coherence, positivity, and peace in society as a whole" when the TM-Sidhi program is practiced in groups.[16] This is termed the "Maharishi Effect". While empirical studies have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals,[17] these assertions have been disputed by most of those in the scientific and skeptic community who have written about them.

Contents

Origin and history

According to TM Movement websites, the Transcendental Meditation technique gives the experience of pure consciousness, described as the state found at the source of the mind.[18] The TM-Sidhi program, also called "Maharishi Technology of Unified Field", aims to train the practitioner's mind to operate without losing connection with that source.[18][19] According to the TM Movement, by learning to function in this way, thinking becomes increasingly coherent so that a practitioner's desires may be fulfilled more easily.[18]

Derived from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which taught that there were 52 siddhas or special powers that accompany enlightenment[20] the TM-Sidhi Program consists of formulas or sutras (threads), the practice of which proponents say can lead to development of advanced human abilities, which the program calls Sidhis. The essential aspect necessary to gain these powers is called samyama, a synthesis of three methods taught by Patanjali. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's samyama includes the incorporation of Yogic Flying and other sidhis.[20][21][22] According to Bonshek, by regularly doing the TM-Sidhi program, a person starts to operate from "self-referral consciousness", and that Yogic Flying shows mind-body co-ordination and the person's ability to "act from self-referral awareness".[22]

The introduction of the TM-Sidhi Program in the mid-1970s coincided with a significant decline in new students of the TM technique, and is a part of a change in the Transcendental Meditation Movement that occurred at that time. The organization directed itself inward and offered additional products and practices to its committed practitioners to continue on the path to enlightenment.[23] These included, in the words of Bainbridge, supernatural compensators, including the TM-Sidhi program.[24] During this period, the Movement began making increasing claims about the powers of TM and the TM-Sidhi program, including the reduction of crime. According to Nancy Cooke de Herrera, an early teacher of TM and a TM-Sidhi practitioner, Charlie Lutes, former President of the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, saw the introduction of the TM-Sidhi program as a financial ploy to increase income in the wake of declining public interest in TM.[25][26]

Principles

Sidhis, sutras and practice

The term "siddhi" means "perfection" and refers to the development of a perfected mind/body coordination.[22] Early advertisements for the TM-Sidhi program stated that its practice could lead to the development of extraordinary abilities such as Yogic Flying, the creation of peace, invisibility, walking through walls, mind-reading, colossal strength, extra sensory perception, empathy, compassion, omniscience, perfect health, and immortality.[27][28][29][30][31] Australian psychiatrist Byron Rigby, Chief Minister for Health and Immortality in the TM Movement[32] presented a paper at the Sixth World Congress of Psychiatry in 1977, in which he stated that practitioners of TM-Sidhi had already achieved extraordinary hearing, the ability to see inner organs of the body and objects inside sealed containers with eyes closed, and the early stages of flying and invisibility.[33] Doug Henning explained the invisibility sidhi in a lecture: "You can disappear at a high state of consciousness because your body just stops reflecting light".[34] More important than these abilities is the development and control of the mind that is said to occur.[20]

There are currently 18 sidhis, each with an associated sutra, which is a word or phrase in English. The current TM sidhis include friendliness (repeating the word "friendliness"); knowledge of the motions of the stars (repeating the word "polestar"); omniscience (repeating the phrase "distinction between intellect and transcendence") and levitation or flying (repeating the phrase "relationship of body and akasha (ether)-lightness of cotton fiber"). The chosen sutras are repeated mentally every 15 seconds, and repeated twice. The flying sidhi, which was emphasized by the Maharisihi over the other sidhis for unknown reasons, is practiced after completing the other sidhis, and may be repeated for 5 to 30 minutes, followed by a rest period, and then a 10-minute reading from an English translation of the Rig Veda.[25][35][36] According to Williamson, the version of TM-Sidhi that is taught to "Citizens" (those who are not also TM teachers) is slightly different from the version taught to "Governors" (TM teachers).

Soma

The Maharishi directed that, after practicing the flying technique each day, practitioners read the Ninth Mandala of the Rig Veda, and stated that the purpose of reading this text was to feed the Soma created in their guts to the Vedic gods, particularly Indra.[25]

Research on physiological and cognitive effects

Studies of practitioners of the TM-Sidhi program have found positive changes in hormones associated with stress.[37][38] In addition, a study showed an increase night-time plasma melatonin associated with the practice of the TM-Sidhi program.[39] An early study by researchers at Maharishi University found that practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi programs is associated with a slowing of the aging process.[40]

A review by Sibinga and Kemper in Pediatrics in Review notes a study by researchers from Maharishi International University and another one by researchers from MIU and University of Northern Iowa that "suggest increased creativity, intelligence, and learning ability" may be associated with the practice.[41] A review of studies by Maharishi University researchers and others by Roy Horan says that practice of the TM-Sidhi program, which he characterizes as a form of sanyama training, may enhance creativity and hearing.[42]

Yogic Flying

According to the Maharishi, Yogic Flying is a phenomenon created by a specific thought projected from the simplest state of human consciousness called Transcendental Consciousness.[43] Practitioners say that there are three distinct stages of Yogic Flying: hopping, floating, and flying.[30][44][45][46][47] Referring to quantum electrodynamics, the Maharishi explained the physics of Yogic Flying this way in a conversation with two scientists: "We teach our students that by concentration through meditation they can create an impenetrable field of energy between the ground and their bodies.The greater the field of energy, the higher the meditating man can rise. It is simple Q.E.D."[48][49]

The hopping stage is described as "the body moving forward in short jumps".[50] Since 1986, there have been public demonstrations of the hopping stage of Yogic Flying in numerous countries including many locations in the United States.[51] There have been no demonstrations of stage two: hovering or floating, nor any demonstrations of stage three: flying through the air.[50][52] Picture of people "hovering" are in fact photographs taken at the top of a hop.[53]

Musician Paul McCartney was with The Beatles in Rishikesh in 1968 for TM training and he asked the Maharishi at the time about levitation. According to McCartney, the Maharishi said he had never done it, did not know anyone who had, and was unable to find anyone to demonstrate it.[54] The Maharishi appeared as a guest on The Merv Griffin Show in 1975 and again in 1977.[55][56][57] According to author and skeptic James Randi, the Maharishi said during a Merv Griffin Show appearance that he had enrolled 40,000 students in the TM-Sidhi program. When Griffin, a practitioner of TM,[56] asked how many of them had learned to levitate, the Maharishi answered: "Thousands".[58] According to a 1977 article in The Los Angeles Times, a spokesman said that Yogic Flying would only be demonstrated if a group of ten individuals each paid $1,000 for the showing. The article quoted Swami Vishnu-devananda as saying that the assertions of flying is a "hoax".[59]

Bevan Morris, president of the Maharishi International University, held the First North American Yogic Flying Contest in 1986, at the Civic Center in Washington DC. 22 TM-Sidhi meditators participated in competitions including the 25-meter hurdles, the 50-meter dash, and the long jump.[60] Reporters describe the participants hopping on foam mattresses while sitting cross legged or in a seated "lotus position".[61][62] Victoria Dawson, a reporter for the Washington Post, observed that, "The hoppers remained seated, hopping vigorously among themselves, mixing and mingling with spiritual energy and good feeling".[50] The contest was held annually through 1989.[63] The champion long jumper at the 1989 event explained that the "changing of physiology of the subtle self" enabled him to lift off the ground, and predicted that he would accomplish full flight within three years.[63]

In 1988, TM researchers at MUM compared the alpha brain waves of individuals during Yogic Flying to those of subjects mimicking Yogic Flying by just sitting and hopping. They found that alpha power was significantly higher in those practicing Yogic Flying.[64]

In a 1987 Washington Post article, the Cult Awareness Network criticized Yogic Flying as "fake". Two former students from Maharishi International University said the activity was "strictly physical exercise ... [with] nothing spiritual about it".[65]

In the 1998 ABC News special The Power of Belief, journalist John Stossel reported on paranormal beliefs including Yogic Flying. Stossel said Yogic Flying looked like bouncing, and costs several thousand dollars to learn. A stock analyst who practices Yogic flying and who was interviewed said it brought him bliss and helped him perform his job more effectively.[66]

Robert L. Park, professor of physics at the University of Maryland and author of the weekly science Internet column, What's New, attended a demonstration in 1999 that was presented at a press conference at the Washington, DC Press Club by physicist and Natural Law Party US Presidential candidate, John Hagelin. Park described 12 "fit-looking" young men who demonstrated levitation following a meditation session and "popped up a couple of inches and thumped back down." Park wrote that "the scene looked like corn popping", and that "there was nothing to suggest they didn’t follow parabolic trajectories".[67]

Maharishi Effect

The Maharishi Effect (also called "super radiance") is the supposed benefit that a society receives when a small number of practitioners of Transcendental Meditation techniques are active.[68] In 1960, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted that if one percent of the population practiced Transcendental Meditation, the quality of life for the entire population would be affected. It is still stated by Maharishi associates that the threshold required to see such a Maharishi Effect is training 1% of the population in Transcendental Meditation.[69] In 1976, a study conducted by researchers with Maharishi University of Management claimed to show the Maharishi Effect because they said that crime was reduced an average of 16% in communities where 1% of the population was practicing the TM technique.

Following the Maharishi's introduction of the TM-Sidhi Program, movement scientists proposed that exponential effects would be experienced from group practice of Yogic Flying.[70] According to that proposal, if the square root of one percent of the population of an area (that is, first calculating 1% of the population and then taking the square root of the resulting number) regularly practiced the TM-Sidhi program together, it would "create coherence in the collective consciousness of a given population" - resulting in reductions in violence, crime, disease, deadly storms, and other destructive natural forces.[22][68] A January 2008 press release by the TM Movement states that "many times the required number of Yogic Flyers have been trained to create invincibility for the whole world".[71]

The Maharishi Effect has been compared by Maharishi and others to the Meissner effect which occurs in superconducting materials.[72] It is sometimes described as a phase transition that takes effect immediately once the threshold is met.[69][73] In other descriptions, it begins to take effect even when the numbers of practitioners are well below the threshold.[74] For a 1986 study on the Maharishi Effect, researchers at Maharishi University of Management said that a minimum of about 100 practitioners would be needed to achieve observable coherence.[75]

Invincible Defense Technology

The Invincible Defense Technology,[76] created by Yogic Flying and the Maharishi Effect, was the defense policy of the transnational Natural Law Party. According to literature from the Canadian branch, "by creating this effect, Canada will radiate a peaceful influence to all nations, naturally disallowing the birth of an enemy...the result is an invincible armour for the nation, which automatically prevents incoherent influences from disturbing the country's internal peace and harmony."[77]

In 2007, Emanuel Schiffgens, Raja of Germany, created controversy at a lecture by film director David Lynch in Berlin when he exhorted the audience to create "Invincible Germany". When a student retorted "That's exactly what Hitler wanted", Raja Schiffgens replied "Yes, but unfortunately he didn't succeed", enraging the crowd.[78] Schiffgens then tried to explain to the crowd that invincibility meant no negativity.[79] Schiffgens and Lynch were presenting a plan to build the Invincible Germany University atop Teufelsberg (Devils Mountain) near the German capital.[80]

The Journal of Management & Social Sciences, an academic journal printed in Pakistan, published a paper in 2009 by David Leffler of the Maharishi University of Management's Center for Advanced Military Science. According to The Independent, Leffler writes that TM is a "scientifically verified way to prevent war and terrorism".[81][82]

As of June 2010, eleven nations had achieved invincibility through Yogic Flying and the Maharishi Effect, according to a movement website. The invincible nations are: Bolivia, Colombia, Curaçao, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Holland, India, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and United States of America.[83] Invincible America was achieved partly due to a $12 million grant from the Howard and Alice Settle Foundation for an Invincible America, which provides stipends for Yogic Flyers.[84][85] Practitioners at the Invincible America Assembly, held at Maharishi University of Management, have asserted that their efforts would lead to invincibility from terrorist attacks.[84]

The TM Movement has raised millions of dollars toward its plan for world peace, a portion of which is claimed to fund 10,000 vedic pandits to chant and perform yagyas 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the Brahmasthan (or geographical center) of India. The Brahmasthan, however, is a "ghost town".[86]

1983 Middle East study

Design and conduct

A study conducted in the Middle East in 1983 by David Orme-Johnson, et al., was published in Journal of Conflict Resolution and presented statistical evidence for the Maharishi Effect. This was a prospective experiment (one in which the outcome is predicted in advance). All the variables were publicly available data, and a list of the variables used in the study was placed with an outside Project Review Board prior to the experiment.[87][88]

According to the study, which was conducted in Israel and applied Box-Jenkins impact assessment, cross-correlation, and transfer function analysis, it determined that a group of individuals practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi techniques located in Jerusalem had a statistically significant effect on improving the quality of life in that city. Analysis showed there were fewer automobile accidents, fires, and crime in Jerusalem during the time of the experiment. Additionally, research results indicated that the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi group practice caused statistically measurable improvements in the quality of life in the country as a whole. The study measured reduction in crime, an increase in the stock market price, improved national mood (as measured by news content analysis) and a reduction of hostilities in the war in Lebanon (fewer war deaths and decreased war intensity as measured by news content analysis). According to the study, the effects of religious holidays, temperature, weekends, and other forms of seasonality were controlled for and did not account for the results. Additionally, according to the authors, all cross-correlations and transfer functions supported a causal interpretation.[87]

Reception

Subsequent to this study, Philip Schrodt published a critique of the study in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. He contested that the study’s measurement of the critical independent variable did not correspond to the most obvious interpretation of the theory, since it was obtained using political boundaries rather than geographical radius. Had the study used geographic radius (a method used in all later studies of the Maharishi effect), the observed effects would not have taken place, Schrodt maintained. According to Schrodt, the study does not account for reverse causation, nor properly test for the existence of spurious relationships.[89] The study failed to randomize their independent variable - the number of meditators. Rather than being random, there was a systematic rise in the number of meditators over the first month of the study, followed by a clear weekly cycle in the second month. The failure to explicitly and adequately account for artifactural time patterning makes the claimed correlation very weak datum, because the claimed correlations over time are notoriously susceptible to artifacts.[90]

In an article published in the same issue as the critique by Schrodt, the authors responded to the points in the critique. Regarding the independent variable, the authors state that previous research also used political units rather than purely geographical distance and that it is appropriate that the independent variable take into account political units because they reflect greater homogeneity, closer personal ties, more frequent interaction, and stronger internal lines of influence (such as cultural, emotional, economic, and political). The authors pointed out that the issue of randomization was addressed in the original paper: when the data was broken into quartiles, the 15 (or 16) days representing each quartile were found to be essentially randomly distributed over the duration of the experiment. They also gave five reasons why the issue of reverse causation was not a factor.[87]

Fales and Markovsky's article also criticized the study and its findings. After discussing specific criticisms, they concluded, "it is hardly unreasonable to suppose that the fluctuations of the dependent variables measured by O88 would have remained exactly as they were even if there had been no meditators at all. The claim that TM provides the only plausible explanation of these data cannot be sustained. There are alternative explanations that do not depend on esoteric or paranormal influences".[91] David Orme-Johnson and Robert Oates, in a rebuttal published by Journal of Scientific Exploration, said that there is, as yet, no other explanation for their findings other than the one hypothesized by their study, the Maharishi Effect.[73]

A critique of the project published in the International Cultic Studies Association's Cultic Studies Journal by Mordecai Kaffman characterized the methods of the project as unscientific, the claims of positive results unconvincing, anecdotal, and based on a conceptual error, and concluded that the theory of a unified field of consciousness was no more credible than was Blondot's theory that metals gave off N-rays.[92] In their response published in Cultic Studies Journal, Charles Alexander and David Orme-Johnson say that Kaffman did not provide any data, analytic procedures, or specific results. Also, they said the period of time he considered was different from that of the study and that he did not assess the two most important variables. To his assertion that the theory is no more credible than N-rays, Alexander and Orme-Johnson say that there are many examples where implausible new theories were resisted by were eventually born out, such as the germ theory of disease.[75]

1993 Washington D.C. study

Design and conduct

A study on the Maharishi Effect written by John Hagelin, David W. Orme-Johnson, Maxwell Rainforth, et al. and published in 1999 in the journal Social Indicators Research, concluded that there was a correlation between the gathering of a group of 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs, including Yogic Flying, in the District of Columbia, and a reduction in violent crime in that city.[93] The experiment took place from June 7 to July 30, 1993 and utilized a twenty member independent Project Review Board consisting of sociologists and criminologists from leading universities, representatives from the police department and government of the District of Columbia, and civic leaders. This Review Board approved in advance the research protocol for the project and monitored its progress.[93]

The dependent variable in the research was weekly violent crime, as measured by the Uniform Crime Report program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; violent crimes include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.[93] This data was obtained from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department for 1993 as well as for the preceding five years (1988–1992). Additional data used for control purposes included weather variables (temperature, precipitation, humidity), daylight hours, changes in police and community anti-crime activities, prior crime trends in the District of Columbia, and concurrent crime trends in neighboring cities. Average weekly temperature was significantly correlated with homicides, rapes and assaults (HRA crimes) and so temperature was used as a control variable in the analysis of HRA crimes. Using time series analysis, violent crimes were analyzed separately in terms of HRA crimes (crimes against the person) and robbery (monetary crimes), as well as together.[93]

According to the study, statistical analysis suggests that the murder rate, after excluding, as an outlier, a 36-hour period during which 10 murders occurred, was slightly lower than what would have been expected for that time of year and taking temperature into account, though the decrease was not statistically significant.[93] In addition, the study says that temperature was used as a control variable in the analysis of homicide, rape and assault and that violent crimes were analyzed separately as well as in relationship with other types of crime.[93]

At a 1994 press conference to announce the analysis of that study, Hagelin said that, during the period of the experiment Washington, D.C. experienced a significant reduction in psychiatric emergency calls, fewer complaints against the police, and an increase in public approval of President Bill Clinton. Overall, there was an 18% reduction in violent crime during the study period, he told the press.[94]

Reception

Physicist and skeptic Robert L. Park called the study a "clinic in data distortion".[94][95] Park questioned the validity of the study by saying that during the weeks of the experiment Washington, D.C.'s weekly murder count hit the highest level ever recorded.[94]

Maxwell Rainforth, Assistant Professor of Physiology and Health and Statistics at Maharishi University of Management and a coauthor of the Washington, D.C. study, acknowledged that the 36-hour period was "horrific," but said that, from a scientific perspective, it was a statistical outlier because homicides by themselves constituted a small data set. He said that homicides comprised 3% of violent crimes in the year of the study (1993). Rainforth characterized Park's criticisms of the study as "superficial, highly polemical" and "willfully misleading", and that his objections to the use of time series analysis and other statistical methods were not based on scientific arguments. He also questioned whether Park had read the published study, since his criticism focused on a preliminary Interim Report released at a press conference in 1994.[96]

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "those outside the movement" did not see the cause and effect that the study asserted.[28] The Maharishi called the study, which cost $6 million, a "waste of time" and said that scientific research is a fraud.[97] As a result of this study, John Hagelin received the 1994 Ig Nobel Prize in peace, a parody of the Nobel Prize that honors achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think".[98][99] The editor of the Annals of Improbable Research said that no scientific analysis of John Hagelin’s work was conducted before the Ig Nobel Prize was awarded. [100]

1996 Merseyside study

In 1996, Guy Hatchard, the director of the movement's Skelmersdale facility,[101] and four Maharishi University professors published an analysis of the Maharishi Effect on crime in Merseyside, England (a metropolitan high crime area which includes Liverpool) from 1988 to 1992. Hatchard, who holds an M.A. in education from Maharishi International University,[101] published his findings in Psychology, Crime and Law. Hatchard, et al., used a time series analysis to conclude that the crime rate fell as the number practicing the TM-Sidhi program in a group (the Maharishi Effect Threshold), combined with the number of people trained in TM (the Maharishi Effect Threshold Index), reached the designated threshold percentage. When the researchers analyzed the percentage of crime rate changes for the years 1987/90 and 1987/92, they found that of all the 42 police districts of England and Wales, Merseyside was the only one where the crime rate decreased, whereas it rose everywhere else. Hatchard dismissed other possible causes for the crime reduction, including an expansion in a drug treatment program mentioned below. Since the average cost of crime was valued at over £5,000 each, the researchers estimated that the reduction in crime saved Merseyside over £1,250,000,000, or about US $2.1 billion. According to the researchers, this was the 41st replication of the Maharishi Effect findings.[69] Hatchard said later that the study's conclusions were 99.96% accurate.[102]

These figures were cited by the Natural Law Party in their campaign literature. Political journalist Andrew Rawnsley, referring to these claims, characterized the party as "no different to any normal political party" in its "use of bogus statistics".[103] An analysis by Howard Parker, a sociology professor at Manchester University, published by the Home Office Police Research Group in 1996, showed that the decrease in aggregated crime was driven by a sharp decrease in acquisitive crimes typically committed by drug users; other types of crime, such as violent crime against persons and criminal vandalism, increased during the same period. It was suggested that a large methadone program implemented during the mid to late 1980s may have accounted for the reduction in crime.[104] In The New Believers, author David V. Barrett says that data supplied by the Merseyside Police show that crime rose each year from 1989 to 1992, and that a dip in reported crime in 1993 was perhaps due to "many policing initiatives".[102]

Other studies

According to a MUM website, studies on the Maharishi Effect have been published in Social Indicators Research, Journal of Mind and Behavior, Social Science Perspectives Journal, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Crime and Justice, Psychology Reports, Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, Proceedings of the American Statistical Association, Proceedings of the Midwest Management Society and Psychology, Crime, and Law.[105]

Research by Michael Dillbeck of the Maharishi International University published in 1987 in Journal of Mind and Behavior found a correlation between quality of life in Rhode Island, the Philippines, New Delhi, Puerto Rico and the group practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs. According to Dillbeck, quality of life in Rhode Island during a three-month period in 1978 improved significantly when the group practicing was large enough, but not in the control state of Delaware. Crime fell by 11% in New Delhi in 1980 during a five-month period in which enough people were practicing the TM-Sidhi program. Similar results were found in Puerto Rico in 1984 and two studies of TM-Sidhi practices in Metro Manila during 1980 and 1984.[106]

A paper published in Psychological Reports in 1995 by Panayotis Assimakis, a graduate of Maharishi University of Management teaching at University of Crete, and Dillbeck, used time series analysis to concluded that the quality of life for Canadians improved significantly when the number of Yogic Flyers in Fairfield, Iowa, combined with Yogic Flyers in Washington, D.C. and The Hague, exceeded the square root of 1% of the combined populations of Canada and the U.S. Improvement in the quality of life was measured in the first study as a decline in a composite index made up of three causes of violent death: motor vehicle fatalities, suicide and homicide, from 1983 to 1985, and in a second study, by a decline in the same three causes of violent death, plus cigarette consumption and worker-days lost in strike, from 1972 to 1986.[107]

Demonstration projects

According to James Randi, a magician and critic of paranormal claims, and University of Oregon professor Ray Hyman, Robert Rabinoff, a former Maharishi International University physics professor, said that a large gathering of TM practitioners had reduced crime and accidents and increased crop production in the vicinity of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. Randi writes that Hyman says he heard Rabinoff make the statements during a talk at the University of Oregon in 1978. In his book Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and Other Delusions, Randi says he spoke with the Fairfield Police Department, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles and was unable to substantiate Rabinoff's claims.[58]

In Sweden, November 1990, a group of 5,000 meditators, out of an expected 15,000, attended a mass-meditation event at the Globe stadium in Stockholm with the intent of avoiding war in the Persian Gulf following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Three-quarters of the attendees, who paid USD$ 35 each for the 20-minute event, were already experienced meditators. David Orme-Johnson expected the event to produce "some softening, some kind of statement that is more reconciliatory". He said that an event in Iowa with 3,000 meditators in October 1990 was responsible for Hussein talking about reducing troop levels in Kuwait.[108]

In 1992, President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique learned Transcendental Meditation and yogic flying [109] along with 1500 military personal and civil service officials and their families.[110] In October of that year the armed opposition, RENAMO, signed a peace treaty ending a 16-year civil war. Two months later what was described as the worst drought of the century across southeastern Africa ended.[111] According to Maharishi literature, Chissano said that the meditation practice led to "political peace and balance in nature.[109] In 1993, Chissano received an honorary degree from one of the movement's universities.[112][113] He told the Maharishi at meeting in MERU, Holland that "Crime and accidents are down. We still have to do a thorough study, but we can feel the positive effects."[110] However, a deputy defence minister said he did not believe the TM and yogic flying had ended the war.[109] Over 16,000 soldiers and 30,000 civilians were taught the TM and the TM-Sidhi techniques. From the end of 1994, all military and police recruits were ordered to meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day. Chissano entered into an agreement to turn over control of 25% of the arable land in Mozambique to the Maharishi Heaven on Earth Development Company, but the agreement was nullified when it became public in 1994.[113] In 2001, the Defense Minister said that the country had experienced triple the expected economic growth and crime levels had dropped".[109] Some individual units maintained the practice when the program ended in 2001 for what the local Maharishi center described as "administrative reasons".[109]

In 2004, the Maharishi directed Transcendental Meditation practitioners at the Maharishi village at Skelmersdale, Lancashire to employ the Maharishi Effect with the aim of overturning the Labour government. Tony Blair's Labour Party won reelection in May 2005. In response, the Maharishi withdrew all instruction in Transcendental Meditation in the UK, eventually lifting the ban two years later, around the same time Blair left office as Prime Minister. UK TM Movement spokesman Geoffry Clements explained that while 100 yogic flyers were able to affect the Merseyside crime rates, the election experiment failed due to the inability to obtain a critical mass of yogic flyers of more than 800 needed to affect the entire country, other than for brief periods during the summer.[114][115][116]

In Israel, a "squadron" of 30 practitioners meeting at a hotel on Lake Kinneret during the 2006 Lebanon War said their efforts were shielding the area from Katyusha rockets.[117]

John Hagelin organized the Invincible America Assembly in Fairfield, Iowa on July 23, 2006 as a demonstration of the Maharishi Effect. Hagelin said in a press release announcing the project that "for the United States, with a population of just over 300 million, the required number of peace-creating experts is 1,730".[118] According to the Global Good News website "on 28 November 2006, the United States achieved invincibility and are stabilizing the number of Yogic Flyers—rising from 1,600 to 1,730—assembled at the Invincible America Assembly in Fairfield, Iowa".[83] In addition, Hagelin's Institute for Science Technology and Public Policy web site says that the Invincible America Assembly in Iowa "is rising quickly toward its target of 2,500".[119] Daily tallies of participants in the project are maintained on the Invincible America Assembly website.[120]

Hagelin predicted that when the number of assembly participants reached 2,500, America would have a major drop in crime, and would see the virtual elimination of all major social and political woes in the United States.[121] He said that the Assembly was responsible for the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching a record high of 14,022 in July 2007, and predicted that the Dow would top 17,000 within a year.[121][122] On the first trading day after the Assembly began in July 2006, the Dow had closed at 11,051.05, up 182.67 from 10,868.38.[123] In the weeks that followed the S&P 500 as well as the Domini 400 Social Equity Index rose an average of 0.7% per week in contrast to a weekly average decrease of .06% going back to 2000.[124] The Dow failed to reach 17,000 as predicted and peaked on October 9, 2007 at 14,164.53. The Dow then declined, closed under 7,000 in March 2009 for the first time since May 1997, and did not again close above 10,868 until March 23, 2010.[125][126][127]

Critiques and responses

Physicist Peter Woit characterized the theory that there is an unified field of consciousness as wishful thinking that is viewed by most physicists as nonsense.[128] Christopher Anderson wrote in a 1992 news article in Nature that Hagelin's investigations into how the extension of grand unified theories of physics to human consciousness could explain how Transcendental Meditation influences world events "disturbs many researchers" and "infuriates his former collaborators". Anderson says that John Ellis, director of CERN, was worried about guilt by association. Anderson quotes Ellis as saying "I was afraid that people might regard [Hagelin's assertions] as rather flaky, and that might rub off on the theory or on us”.[129] Dallas Observer political reporter Jonathan Fox wrote in 2000 that "Once considered a top scientist, Hagelin's former academic peers ostracized him after the candidate attempted to shoehorn Eastern metaphysical musings into the realm of quantum physics."[130]

According to Woit, Hagelin began making a connection between consciousness and physics as a graduate student at Harvard in the late 1970s. Hagelin's collaboration with CERN and other researchers continued through 1994.[131]

According to Robert P. Abelson, there is no known physical principle that could account for the Maharishi Effect, nor any articulation by its proponents of how the "unified field", if it is active on the targeted people and institutions, could translate into the desired psychological and political behaviors. There is no currently-accepted causal relationship in Western science that would link group meditation to the claimed phenomenon. In a review of Abelson's book, Peter McBurney says that if an experiment identifies a phenomenon for which no known explanation exists, this is in itself interesting and deserving of publication.[132] According to Abelson, who looked at the 1983 Middle East study, the prior probability, in Bayesian statistics, of there being a Maharishi Effect, is practically zero. According to Abelson, "Maharishi adherents" say that the probability is closer to 1.0.[90]

Philip Schrodt wrote that validation of the Maharishi Effect theory would contradict virtually the whole of contemporary understanding of causality in social behavior.[89] University of Iowa professors Evan Fales and Barry Markovsky critiqued the Maharishi Effect and its underlying master theory in the journal Social Forces. They concluded that there are serious problems with the theory, that it does not cohere well with other strongly confirmed theories, conflicts with evidence supporting those theories, is vague, relies upon specious analyses, is silent about key processes that link causes to their alleged effects, and "does not pass minimal criteria of meaningfulness and logical integrity." They state that the Maharishi Effect predictions cannot be derived from the master theory, because of a lack of causal connection, an inability to specify time lags, and the fact that the model that can be derived from the formal component of the theory to make specific Maharishi Effect predictions is ignored by its researchers. Thus, they concluded that the evidence offered by researchers as support for the Maharishi Effect "cannot significantly enhance confidence in the veracity" of the theory.[91]

In response to Schrodt, Fales & Markovsky, and others, former MUM professor David Orme-Johnson and former MUM director of Public Affairs Robert Oates wrote an article in Journal of Scientific Exploration in which they summarized evidence for the theory that there is a connection between the mind and the environment. They wrote that, since the late 1970s, studies have found small but statistically significant causal effects in a wide variety of contexts in which the mechanism is not clearly understood. They say this evidence supports a field-theoretic view of consciousness, which suggests that there is an underlying common field of consciousness and that individuals can interact directly at a distance via this underlying field. According to the authors, research has demonstrated that focusing attention on a common event may produce small but statistically significant effects on inanimate detectors, such as random generators. In addition, they say that well-controlled EEG studies have shown that evoked potentials in one person's brain may produce changes in the brain of another person, but who was isolated in an electromagnetically shielded room. Also, they say that studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) suggest the brains of individuals separated from each other may become significantly correlated.[73]

James Grant, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Education at Maharishi University of Management, says in the book The University in Transition that the environmental influence of the group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi techniques is "one of the most rigorously confirmed findings in the field of sociology".[133]

Huw Dixon, Professor of Economics at York University, says: "I have been following research on the Maharishi Effect over the past 20 years. Its conclusions are so strong that it demands action from those responsible for government policy."[134]

In regard to "Super Radiance", author Lynne McTaggert wrote in her 2003 book, The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, says that despite ridicule "largely because of the Maharishi's own personal interests, the sheer weight of the data is compelling." She also said that "Many of the studies have been published in impressive journals such as the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Mind and Behavior, and Social Indicators Research, which means that they would have had to meet stringent reviewing procedures".[135]

In his book, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, skeptic Michael Shermer says that the disproven Hundredth monkey effect and the Maharishi Effect both involve the concept of a collective consciousness.[136]

In his book on the nature of consciousness, Harry Hunt says that the “extraordinary series of studies” on the Maharishi Effect is relatively immune from methodological criticism. However, he suggests that a more plausible explanation is that the meditators “have unintentionally attuned themselves to anticipatory fluctuations within collective society” because they are more sensitive to this than the average person.[137]

According to a chapter on meditation research by Roger Walsh in a textbook on transpersonal psychiatry and psychology, while the Maharishi Effect research may be at risk for unconscious bias due to its being conducted by members of the TM organization, if it is independently verified, “the implications — for everything from philosophy and physics to peace and politics — will be remarkable.” [138]

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    "This two-year longitudinal study investigated the effect of participation in a special university curriculum, whose principal innovative feature is twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) and TM-Sidhi program, on performance on Cattell's Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) and Hick's reaction time. These measures are known to be correlated with general intelligence. One hundred college men and women were the subjects—45 from Maharishi International University (MIU) and 55 from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). The experimental group (MIU) improved significantly on the CFIT (t=2.79, P<0.005); choice reaction time (t=9.10, P<0.0001); SD of choice reaction time (t=11.39, P<0.0001), and simple reaction time (t=2.11, P<0.025) over two years compared to the control group, which showed no improvement. "
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