Monday, May 11, 2009

Wishing for immortality

There's a section of the Maharishi University of Management website that contains an archive of the school's yearbooks - most of them from the days when it was called Maharishi International University, from 1975 through 2004. They're a fascinating window into some of the often unwritten history of the TM movement - some of them show what projects were important at the time, and some show how the claims that were made, the language that was used, and the expectations among people involved with TM, changed over time.

This is an example of one of those claims or expectations. Back in the early to mid-1980's, some years after the TM movement introduced the "TM-Sidhi" program that featured bouncing on foam rubber and calling it "flying," the movement rolled out its own version of "ayurveda" and other dubious products. Around that time, primed by the expectation created by gatherings with names like "Taste of Utopia," there was a lot of talk about "immortality." Some might claim in hindsight that most people didn't take those claims seriously. But some obviously did.

This is a 1986 yearbook advertisement for the local Maharishi Ayurveda store. It suggests that for at least some around the MIU and the TM movement at the time, the expectation of a lifetime of more than 200 years among those who participated in the TM movement's programs was perfectly normal. It wasn't something that could easily be found in print, but it was obviously a common enough belief that this ad was accepted and printed in the school's yearbook. Putting the last line in quotes makes the claim perfectly deniable; it could be defended as the statement of some random person who could have expressed the hope of being around for a 200 year class reunion. Unlike the movement's direct claims made when marketing its products, it seems to originate from the expectations that were generated among meditators, from the people who bought the movement's claims, hook, line and sinker.

No comments:

Post a Comment