Thursday, October 28, 2010

Open Thread for Our Readers — New Readers: Check This Out!

Here is your space.

Discuss anything on your mind—or in your heart—in the comments below.

Or, if you have a topic or article you would like us to post on the blog page, just email me at

New Readers: Some of the most important discussions and information sharing takes place in our comments. Why not check 'em out? And maybe share your thoughts there, too?




John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


I'm talking about why TB's come to this site and attempt to discredit members' beliefs, values and experiences with TM. Many of the members here have vast experience in the TMO, and a number have suffered considerable harm as a result. It seems to me to be very disrespectful to discredit that experience and discount the harm people have suffered.

Does anyone here go to the pro-TM sites to air their views and details their experiences? I do not and would not, even though my contribution might have some real value. I simply can't be bothered, and they know where to find anti-TM sites like this one should they so desire. I am cautious about stripping the veil away from TM to people who may have no other source of support and comfort in their lives, even if it is of dubious value to me.

Your thoughts?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

It’s a good question, Deborah. I don’t know the answer, although fundamentalist zeal might come close. Then, of course, there are those TBs who don’t have a very good grasp of reality and feel that they are vastly superior and *must* impose their self-righteousness onto all others. Such an example (not of the TM world, thank goodness) is the “reverend” Fred Phelps who, with his members, attends funerals of soldiers and proclaims his hate message. If the TMO was *that* over the top, they’d go out of business even faster than the pace they’ve set themselves.

But, you are right, of course. The TBs read what is going on here and are familiar with what we say, although whether or not they digest any of it is not clear. While I have no idea what kind of options the TBs have for themselves, I suspect that we, on the other side of the divide, have the option to do our best to recount our experiences and insights in the best possible way we can. Keep it clear, keep it real, a kind of mantra to which I so frequently fail to achieve.

Still, why do some individuals become fanatical about their belief system while others tend to ponder and question their belief system? I really do not know the answer, but it might have something to do with toilet training.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

From their perspective this site is designed to publicly smear them. After all this site does openly ridicule TM, Maharishi, and the organization - not all of the site mind you, but a number of the headlines, articles and comments do exactly that. The one Knapp put up about one about 'the eyes' comes to mind. As they see it they are minding their own business and up pops a website which aims to portray them as charlatans and nuts and it is their right to fight back. If this were just a support group for ex-TMers privately discussing their experiences then I think you would have more of a point but this site is certainly not just that. As I see it this site has the right to do what it wants by way of warning the public about what it see as a cult and a danger but I have no problem with those who believe in it deciding to answer back on the same forum - you invite that response any time you take it upon yourself to ridicule others and that's just a fact. Who is right and wrong about the value of TM seems beside the point here to me.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I think I agree, Lexico, with the single exception that the TMO isn’t really minding its own business at all, not a little bit. Trying to promote TM in schools, to kids, to sell their supposed ayurvedic “remedies” to kids, to get money from the government (to which many of us pay taxes) kind of takes the “minding their own business” out of the equation.

But, that’s my gyp with with the way the organization, Maharishi, Inc., does business. TM itself has merit, even though or despite Mahesh's distortion og that to make a name and fortune for himself.

Now, an apology to you, Lexico, because I hadn’t wanted to come across taking exception with you personally. As I have indicated, much of what you say has value and we would all be meritorious were we to aim our thoughts at where we perceive the organization to be wandering from what might be defined as true spirituality. Which, no, I have no idea how to define. But, like porn, one knows it when one sees it.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, but the question posed was why would the TM true believers bother to come here and make posts attacking this site or its members, instead of just leaving us alone, suggesting that the true believers are going out of their way to attack.

From the believer perspective TM is what they claim it to be and we, by publicly ridiculing them, are declaring war against them. My point is simply that it is no mystery as to why they come here. We, as critics who have taken up the cause against them, should simply accept the debate.

I repeat, you cannot publicly ridicule someone or something else and then be surprised that they defend themselves - is this really a mystery?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Not to belabor the point but I am actually surprised more TMers don't come here to respond. There could be a number of reasons why they do not. Perhaps they wish to bring no extra attention to a site which is still under the radar but I suspect the lack of a more spirited defense is at least partly to do with their lack of commitment and the secret acknowledgement that many of the criticisms ring true. They may secretly read and agree with much of what is said here and they may actually be glad there is such a forum. Being inside the TMO must be a bit like living in North Korea. I do not mean to attack this site or its reason for being (though some of the click-baiting headlines are off base IMO) it's just that I see no problem with the TM believers responding. Any such response SHOULD be done in a civil way but when you start by attacking another in a sensational fashion you MUST understand they will respond according to the tone you set.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Deborah wrote.

‘I am cautious about stripping the veil away from TM to people who may have no other source of support and comfort in their lives, even if it is of dubious value to me.”

This is a truly compassionate statement. There are many levels of truth. TM org (not just the technique) is the truth to the true believers and to many it gives a legitimacy they desperately need. If they come here we can give them our truth but to intrude on them is unwarranted and not helpful. Should we tell a child there is no tooth fairy? When the TBers are ready they can transform into a higher level of truth.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

To me, Lexico, the big surprise is that more TBs don’t show up proclaiming how “we” just don’t understand. (Maybe, because we once were one of them, we actually do understand, which makes us a bit unapproachable; but I suspect that I’m out on a limb with that.)

I wonder if the TBs simply don’t have time to do their “program”, try to make some kind of living, get some sleep and then approach us infidels. Why bother with us if you know you have the only thing that can ever be important? While “we” might see *that* frame of mind as delusional, I think we/everyone must surely know that defining “delusion” is really difficult, and when it comes to religion and politics, nearly impossible.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Having participated in two of the free-for-alls that were TM “discussion” groups, I can understand not wanting to be involved in that kind of melee. Such arguments go no place and leave everyone exhausted; this is unskillful, pointless and only cements opinions without clarifying where those opinions originated or what value those opinions possess. While I don’t particularly “like” your description of the TMO being a bit like living in North Korea, it is certainly apt and is so for much the same reasons.

I hope we keep it civil and decent and compassionate here at TM-Free and I hope we take our lumps when it’s pointed out to us that we’ve failed in this regard.

I also hope we understand why we sometimes do go over the top and take that understanding not as an excuse, but as something personal we have to work on in the process of not only being free from Maheshism, but also in getting free from the hang-ups that hold us back from enjoying more of our potential.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thank you for your kind words. I'm in the Woody Allen camp: life is a challenge and 'whatever works' to get you through is a valid choice, provided it doesn't actively harm you or others. All we can do here is to speak about our experiences as truthfully and clearly as we can, without exaggerating or sensationalising.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I don’t see TM-Free as anyone’s bastard child. TM-Free grew out of individuals who knew (and still know) TM/Maheshism, inside-out. That said, I like our unique role, although I do not think we could label ourselves the “official opposition”.

That being said, I really have nothing further to contribute to your two comments above, John. I just don’t have the organizational skills to sort out our structured anarchy, which maybe is doing it’s job and might not need sorting, certainly not my sorting. That we agree to disagree suits me just fine because out of that is born the insight that I, and perhaps others, feel Maheshism lacks, based as it appears to be in a cult∙ure of non-confrontation and only accepted agreement tolerated.

But, I’d like also, to get back to the discussion that Deborah so kindly generated. The more I think about that and what others have contributed, the more I notice my own feelings and evaluations of experiences-past taking on new meaning and new relevance. That’s where, I think, TM-Free excels: we strive, I hope, to be non-confrontational, not to distort one another’s comments in order to proselytize our own and to maintain not only a healthy, but welcoming and supportive position regarding our contributors whose comments are, after all, what this is all about.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Perhaps I misunderstood the discussion, but it seemed to me lexico and Deborah were indeed partially discussing, with valid points, problems they have with the blog.

I've certainly received a good deal of disagreement and concern about discussion on the blog, much along the lines that lexico discussed.

If I've misunderstood, my apologies.

As this is an open thread, I think I'd like to leave my offer of disucssion, however, open.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Probably my bad for butting in, John. I think your two comments above are absolutely valid, but maybe could be placed separately from the thread Deborah started.

Also, perhaps you could take out the standard blurb and add a title for this thread???

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

No, I have no problem with the way the blog functions. I just questioned why TB's take it upon themselves to come here and attempt to invalidate our views which are based on our considerable experience with TM and the TMO. It comes across as rude, patronising and disrespectful. And futile as well; why would we disregard the fruits of our own experience in favour of theirs? I was curious if anyone here visited any pro-TM sites with the same agenda.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I suppose that “they” feel that “their” views are based on considerable experience with the TM and TMO and that they are, therefore, right.

But, when I do my best to be as objective as I possibly can, the TM true believers still sound, to my ears, fanatical, fundamentalist, sometimes rabid and almost always totally bonkers — this probably arises because once not all that long ago I was one of “them” and know very personally how it feels to be next to fanatical, fundamentalist, rabid and bonkers.

The adage, never argue religion or politics, although I suspect these days it is more like religion AND politics, continues to ring true. At the level of red-in-the-face bickering and badgering, religion and politics become very difficult to distinguish as they approach that gut reactionary level to which almost all such discussions immediately propel nearly everyone and hatred, venom, vitriol, and just plain bad manners emerge like a seedling from its seed.

From my perspective, I’m happy to listen and, where I am able, share what I know or have learnt or experienced that I think is pertinent. Whether it turns out to be pertinent to anyone else isn’t, I guess, my call. I feel that this is generally the case here at TM-Free, that most of our cementers contribute good listening.

I am inclined to simply ignore what I do not understand if it sounds like it is beginning to become argumentative and confrontational — or if that is what it arouses in my. In my experience with TM oriented discussion forums (fora? forae?), neither “side” ever seems to actually be listening. Although even when I try to listen, there’s still a lot of knee-jerk reaction based on past experience that is difficult to over-ride … perhaps, largely because of this Blog, that effort to over-ride seems to be easier for me, now, than it was in the past.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Can you accept that you, me, and other editors at TMFB sound just as fanatical to those who don't agree with us?

I believe we can find a way to talk intelligently and respectfully to each other.

But all sides will have to work at it.

It seems to be human nature to simply say, "You're an asshole"—thereby neatly avoiding listening or discussing.

We—including me, you, and the people who disagree with our viewpoints—can talk with, rather than at, one another.

If we're willing to do the work.

It's just so much easier to call each other names.

Perhaps more entertaining too.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

>>Can you accept that you, me, and other editors at TMFB sound just as fanatical to those who don't agree with us

Not an editor, but no, I can't. People here describe real outcomes from their practise of TM and their experience in the TMO. I have related that I fell into a major depression when I got back from the TTC in Majorca. I didn't go into my feelings or views; I stated that I was unable to leave the house for 8 months. There was no contact from the TMO in all that time, not even a phone call. These are facts. And no, I wasn't depression-prone before or since.

Other people's stories here are much more extreme than mine.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Deborah,

I'm not sure I understand your reply.

Although I wasn't addressing you, I'm not suggesting that either TMers or critics are "correct" in the perceptions of each other.

However, it certainly seems to me that some continuing TMers see TM critics as extreme and fanatics.

And vice versa.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hey, John, Deborah - what I thought I was getting at was that, yes, “we” seem to be just as nuts to the TBs as “they” seem to be nuts to us.

It’s a difficult road and why I shy away from argument and the froth of emotional vehemence that that leads to. It’s just a blind alley and only ends in, as we used to say, tears before bedtime.

But, yes, I do think there is some value as well as validity in what “we” have to say, based upon not only our TM/Maheshistic experience, which combined is quite extensive, but upon the research and practices many of us have also explored, those many other fields of spiritual development which the TBs have not. This, I think, adds to our fund of information — whatever that may be worth.

I well remember a nurse I worked with who was a fundamentalist Christian who knew without doubt that she was absolutely right and did not have to consider anything further, ever.

While I’d like to say that I respect that ... fact is, I do not. It reeks, to me, of the most disgusting facets of concrete thinking and embedded ego. Therefore, I didn’t argue with this person, I didn’t let my gorge rise, my temper flare or my own sense of self-righteousness do one of its little displays of infantile hype.

AND, very like that nurse, I am happy to say what I think (although I do not and hope I never preface that with any sense that I am absolutely right and no one else is or can be); I am happy to share my experiences for what they may be worth to others and take responsibility for my mistakes either when I discover them or when they are clarified for me by someone.

For me, the happy, clappy Christians, the swooning TB of all stripes, just don’t encourage me to pay attention. I just want to engage that fight/flight response and get the hell away as quickly as possible. Yes, I become dismissive and (to any TB or any decent person) I am probably as disgusting as those I find to be disgusting. It’s why, again, for me, arguing, debating, fighting, quarrelling and whatever I’ve left out of this train of thought just doesn’t work.

But like Deborah, I had specific experiences that I felt I could directly relate to the way Mahesh taught and handled TM. I will talk about THAT and, if asked or if I discover an omission or clarification that I feel I should add, I will add that. But I don’t want or need to fight about it or call anyone a liar for not accepting my experiences or “revelations” as monumental insights into reality.

Yes, I think there are some valuable aspects in what Mahesh taught and I have talked about that often. I learned a lot doing TM and hanging with Mahesh and came away richer for it. I just wish I could have come away sooner — although then, I’d have less to share with others. Yes, my opinions and attitudes have changed over many years of actual discussion. BUT I also found that arguing just stopped personal development so I stay away from that – I’m not afraid to change, but have sometimes sensed that there are some TBs who are deathly afraid of change and that is why they argue, bicker and bash away at what they perceive to be the opposition. I can hardly ever claim to not be guilty of that, but I am trying to not only clarify my approach, so to speak, but learn from my past errors and walk a path open to change and personal development.

And, now, the apology I probably should have started with. I didn’t mean to come across as shouting or braying or defensive or whatever. But years of experience have taught me that infighting just leads to dysfunctional thinking and behaviour and I want to caution everyone against getting sucked into that.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

FWIW, I am an old TM teacher (Estes Park version). Every few years on the internet I will check sites that deal with old TMers, and our experiences of leaving the Mahesh enterprise.
This is the best site, hands down, that I have found. The most thoughtful, the least vengeful, the least victimy, and the least culty. I worked thirty years ago counseling people leaving TMO and other "spiritual" organizations. A lot of "Let's Help the Former Cultists' group are pretty culty in themselves. In any case, i want to give all the editors and contributors here my encouragement. Lawrence (aka Peter) Hooper

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Lawrence or Peter -- I wish I could say I remember you, but Estes Park had about 250 (more? less?) participants and I stuck really close with a couple of folks I met at Poland Spring.

Having attended the Mallorca, Fiuggi and La Antilla courses, I can give high marks for the very nice way Estes Park was organized, the good food and decent accommodations and relatively easy access to Mahesh. But it was an experiment. Mahesh determined he could manufacture huge numbers of teachers and probably already had in mind that he could sell them whatever he wanted after all the long-rounding/brainwashing.

It is good to know that you have helped others who found themselves in the despair of TM problems. I guess that as well as PTSD, we now need a category for TMP and PTMP for those with problems after leaving TM (Post-TM Problems).

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sudarsha, do you remember Jerry Jarvis handing out a form for all of us to sign at Estes Park - I think it was the first day of the course - that was a form letter we had to sign to Maharishi saying we would never betray the teaching by starting our own movements. Apparently some Rishikesh teachers had tried to start their own gigs. Anyway, that was my first wake up call that something was amiss, or that my understanding of M and TM was not M's understanding of M and TM. At the end of the course, the moment I was made a teacher, M asked me what mantra I was using, and I said "Hippopotamus" (not actually what I said)and he said "What it is?" and I said, very clearly, "Hippopotamus" and he looked at me quizzically and said, "Oh, you mean banana!" My mantra had morphed over two years of use from what it originally was on the day of initiation to something basically unrelated to the sacred sanskrit thingy is was supposed to be. And yet, my meditation experiences had been very good, if annoyingly inconsistent. That was my second hint that TM as presented was BS. When Maharishi announced the World Plan, I had a feeling my days were numbered.
And yet I loved those long meditation courses! And I hate to admit it -maybe especially here- but I continued attending TM courses for YEARS to take advantage of their convenience as venues for meditation, while not buying into the whole scene. In retrospect I should have left halfway through Majorca Fiuggi. When April C ( who was a friend) died in that plane crash, and Tmers started saying she had been offed by cosmic forces because she planned to betray the movement, I certainly felt -not like leaving- but like fleeing. It took several more years, a failed marriage, ruined health, all typical disasters, to finally separate. I spoke with Larry L recently,a man who was on staff, and was Maharishi's cook for several courses, and we find it hard to reconcile the TM of 1970 with what exists now, or even with where it went by 1976.
And then there's "unstressing", the ultimate psychologically obtuse and misleading concept ever developed. Stop! Lawrence,stop! You're unstressing! Go to your room! Thank you all for putting -and keeping- this site together. Lawrence Hooper

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Lawrence

I don’t remember signing anything at the beginning of the course, only later when it became time to become an initiator and we all signed that pledge (which is now available at Obviously, someone pocketed a copy because there was quite a bit of panic from the organizers when one didn’t come back.

I came early for the two-week residence course before the actual TTC began and stayed for the two-week whatever it was after the main part of the TTC ended. But I only ever signed that one pledge … at least I have no recollection of signing or being asked to sign anything else; however, I was really turned on to TM, so I might have signed something without giving it any thought whatsoever.

Something that I very clearly recall is that when Mahesh gave me the piece of paper and pronounced the mantras for me, I pointed out to him that the mantra on my piece of paper that was the mantra I had been given and had been using, was the “wrong” mantra for me (at least according to the piece of paper) and he just said doesn’t matter.

Later, when Sattyanand gave me my third technique, he just added namah to the end. The effect was quite overwhelming. I had never experienced meditation like that before. For some reason, I asked him, a day or two later, to check the mantra and he said NO, and gave me aing in place of the mantra I had been using. Meditation was never very interesting after that.

Right from the time, as I have often talked about, I went for that walk in the woods around Estes Park late one night and happened upon Mahesh surrounded by a bunch of Westerners telling him what the Ṛg Veda said and meant, I knew something was wrong, but I had many TM friends, liked TM, liked residence courses, didn’t like rounding and really wanted to teach others something I thought was good. My doubts didn’t begin to outweigh my “devotion” until I was asked by Mahesh to stay and be part of his international staff. It was by close association with Mahesh that it became obvious that there was TM and then there was Mahesh and that things were changing and this business of a Holy Tradition had more holes than Holy.

The unstressing I witnessed in Mallorca should have been the give-away right then and there that there was something wrong, very, very wrong. But “devotion” is a silly bugger. By the time I got back from trying to teach SCI in India (and stay healthy), I knew TM and Mahesh were different entities.

TM is an interesting beginner’s technique. But like an infant remaining on bottle-feeds until s/he is 21, ... well, the metaphor speaks for itself, I hope. - Now, some 30 years later and much study in many different programs of meditation and teachings in support of meditation, it seems much clearer to me that you caught on long, long before I did with this business of TM on one hand and Mahesh on the other. TM, 2x20, is not without merit or benefit; but the prolonged practise of this, ESPECIALLY with all the junk Mahesh sells to make it better (he really isn’t Mike Holmes, not a little bit), can be a disaster.

That some “survive” this costly peril seems to be all the proof the TMO needs to declare itself absolute and invincible. But that’s garbage and goes in the same bucket with fortune tellers who build a reputation of two right predictions out of 2,000.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi Lawrence / Peter ---- I met an ex-TMer named Lawrence (as I recall)quite some years ago (1997?) in San Diego, at OHI -- a health retreat. Was that you??

If so, thank you for having been so open about your experiences with the McRishi. Although I had long ago left the Movement, the insider's info you presented was very important it helping me understand the depth of the deception.

If it wasn't you --- well, there is another disillusioned

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

No, Karina, that was not me, but it could have been. I went heavily into studying alternative health practices after my years in TM. Studied with Drs William Donald Kelley and Robert Bradford, the latter headquartered in San Diego.
But I was not there in '97. I stayed at Bradford's clinic for a while in 2005. I suspect there are a few disillusioned Lawrence's out there....

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