Corresponding with an emailer recently, it came home to me that many people are not aware of the wealth of material about TM insider teachings already exposed on the Internet. So from time to time, I thought I'd post some golden oldies that TMFB readers may have overlooked.
Linked below is a transcription of "Soma and the Gods" taken from testimony in the Kropinski trial. This videotape is one of a handful that have become infamous in the TM movement because of their secrecy: It is only shown to TM teachers on the heavily regimented Teacher Training Course (TTC). For many years copies of this tape were not even allowed to enter the continental US.
For good reason! Much like the Church of Scientology's OT materials, "Soma and the Gods" lays out the Maharishi's theology in a way that the public is not deemed "ready" for by the TM org.
According to participants in the Kropinski trial, this tape -- along with the entire TTC catalog -- appeared mysteriously on someone's doorstep one day. Since then the tape has been used by plaintiffs in court cases to prove that the TM movement had a religious, specifically Hindu, agenda -- largely because it's one of the few times the Maharishi was captured on tape talking about worshipping the Vedic Gods. (Of course today, the TM movement sells Hindu sacrifices, yagyas or yajnas, to Ganesh, Lakshmi, and other Gods for thousands of dollars without batting an eye! Interestingly, "Post-Vedic yajñas, where milk products, fruits, flowers, cloth and money are offered, are called "yaga", homa or havana," according the Wikipedia link. Sounds a lot like the puja used for TM initiation.)
But the true significance of "Soma and the Gods" is much larger. And the theology that the Maharishi espouses is not Hinduism. It is much more idiosyncratic -- and bizarre.
In a nutshell, the Maharishi describes a parasitic relationship between TMers and the Vedic Gods. TMers produce the magical chemical Soma in their guts -- but it isn't something they can use directly. The Vedic Gods, principally Indra, descend from Heaven and feed on the Soma in the TMers' belly. In return for this primitive relationship, the Gods grant all manner of boons. TMers become successful, happy, prosperous, and develop supernormal abilities.
Unbeknownst to non-TM teachers, the entire TM program can be understood through this simple model.
We practice yogic asanas and pranayama to clear the channels through which Soma will flow. We repeat the name of our own personal "Ishta" (God) to summon Him or Her. Advanced TMers practice the sidhis to "stir" the Soma and further clear channels. We read verses from the Rig Veda's Ninth Mandala that literally invite the Gods by name to feast on the Soma produced in our bodies: "Flow, Soma, in a most sweet and exhilirating stream, effused for Indra to drink.... Be the lavish giver of wealth, most bounteous, the destroyer of enemies, bestow on us the riches of the affluent." And we take Ayurvedic potions and pills believing we will produce "extra" or "more refined" soma.
An anecdote from a former Maharishi International University (MIU/MUM) professor:
On my Governor Training Course, after we had rounded and rounded and rounded for three months, MMY [the Maharishi] finally called to answer our questions. I asked what we should expect from endlessly reading the Ninth Mandala of the Rig Veda and I never forgot his reply: "It will become a living reality."
To my knowledge, this vision is the Maharishi's alone.
The Rig and Sama Vedas themselves describe the process of making a beverage, soma, by grinding and brewing a certain medicinal plant -- or alternatively by feeding a plant to a cow and then imbibing either its milk or urine. James Allegro speculated some years back that soma was actually the hallucinogenic mushroom amanita muscara, a prevalent inebriator among all Aryan cultures. Perhaps. But even in modern day India, there are hotris who perform the Soma sacrifice using the humble soma plant, and imbibing the juice.
Nowhere in all of Vedic literature have we found a single reference to soma as a substance produced in the human stomach and fed upon by Gods. Except in this product of the Maharishi's imagination.
Many sources from the inner circles of the TM movement have already reported on the Maharishi's preoccupation with the influence of other people's thoughts (stress), purity of food (genetic engineering), and apparent preoccupation with "enemies" (re: the CIA and AMA). The unforgettable image of ravening Gods jostling each other to feed at the stomachs of TMers around the world to get their share of the mythical Soma seems a conclusive indication that TM theology may simply be the by-product of the Maharishi's distrubed mind.
- Transcription of "Soma and the Gods"
- Opening court proceedings of "Soma and the Gods"
- Expert testimony on "Soma and the Gods"
A few highlights:
- It's clear from the legal wrangling that TM's lawyer was struggling to control how the jury perceived "Soma and the Gods." Those familiar with the TM movement recognize this as a movement "tic," never trust the conclusions the "unenlightened" public may draw -- always frame and interpret the Maharishi's words before and after they are presented.
- It may not be clear from context that "expert witness" John Farrow was a long-time TM/Maharishi devotee, active in the inner circles. The TM-published Collected Papers are littered with his TM-sponsored research.
- As revealed here, the Maharishi had no legal connection to any TM movement organization -- not as an officer, director, or employee. Nonetheless, he ruled with an iron-hand by force of personality and religious devotion to him personally. (See the TM teacher's oath.)
- According to the judge, John Farrow acts as a "surrogate" for the Maharishi. Even in formal legal proceedings, the TM movement attempts to frame their theology carefully before hand, "putting the tape in its clearest context," rather than trusting to the unfiltered perception of the jury.
- Maharishi discusses Hindu devas as "very refined impulses of energy and intelligence" and refers to their finest vibrations as mantras. In the "New Jersey Court Case," the judge labeled this as overtly religious language -- not scientific concept. Most observers of the TM theology see this sort of "shadow speech" as a camouflaged attempt to discuss fundamentalist Hindu religious concepts without offending Western sensibilities.
- The Maharishi specifically talks about the Hindu God Indra as "that Agency, that force of nature which puts together the mind and the body." By extension, one might surmise that whenever the Maharishi talks about forces or laws of nature, that he is referring to the Gods. In fact, this equation is made explicitly for TM teachers and other insiders.
- Finest impulses of life: Another familiar TM/Maharishi substitution for "Gods."