Monday, February 07, 2011

Bevan Morris: calling for revival of a mythical past

Here's one last video excerpt from last month's birthday celebration for "His Majesty Maharaja Adhiraj Raja Raam," the leader of the organization that teaches Transcendental Meditation. It's a bit of jargon from way inside the "Global Country" that I'll attempt to make sense of below.

And this lighting comes with a great wish, that under Maharaja Ji's leadership, silence will reign in activity everywhere on Earth, and Sat Yuga will be enjoyed by every nation, invincibility to every nation, and "Raam Brahm paramarath rupa," that the reign of Brahm which is Brahm for the whole human race, and "Raam Raj dukh kahu na vyapa," that the whole world will as in Raja Raam the Great's time totally devoid of any suffering to anyone. So thank you very much to our purusha rajas. Jai Guru Dev.

The two phrases in italicized quotes are from the Ramayana, one of the many Hindu religious scriptures. What Bevan Morris is referring to here appears to be one of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's final fantasies: that "Heaven on Earth" (Sat Yuga) will return if only the correct kind of government, in this case, led by King Tony Nader, is established, and if that government takes on programs to promulgate things that they think are Vedic ways of doing things in every area of life. That this unique interpretation of the Ramayana is driving the activities of the organization that teaches Transcendental Meditation is strongly indicated by, among other things, this 2007 "Global Good News" article in which Mahesh attributed those goals to passages in the Ramayana.

They're basically saying that by establishing God's rule on earth - a theocracy, of sorts - "Heaven on Earth" will result. Sounds plausible and scientific, doesn't it? It also sounds just like all those other cults and utopian communities that have said the same things for millennia. Just keep saying, "it's not a religion... it's not a religion..."

Here's a segment of an earlier article I wrote here explaining how the core of the organization teaching TM is yet another millenarian movement seeking to radically remake the world into its own image. The TM program is merely the innocuous-looking intake path that's designed to draw in an unwary public.

The Transcendental Meditation organization is a millenarian movement. That is, the main core belief of the organization centers on its particular concept of a future transformation of society and the planet.

While many people automatically assume that such movements center around Christian concepts of the "end-times" or similar ideas, movements based on other theologies, and other scriptural works, also exist. I would suggest that the underlying notion of massive social change put forward by the TM movement to various degrees in past decades finds a resonance, and a willing audience, in American culture because the idea of some future mass transformation is so common in religious culture here, and because of that, the idea is not automatically seen as strange or out-of-bounds.

The Transcendental Meditation organization is a Vedic revivalist religious movement. Similar to many other millenarian movements, it seeks to remake the world in its own image, based upon its contemporary interpretation of ancient scriptures. There is, of course, no previous thing to be "revived" since that is merely a myth of a glorious past; as with other such movements, the notion that all the movement is actually doing is putting things back to how they once were can be a motivator for some to work toward the movement's goals.

The organization works toward transforming all aspects of society so that society reflects its values, language, symbols and rituals. The TM movement thus has always had various subgroups seeking to gain entry into various fields; the "Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention" I pointed out above is one such subgroup focusing on medicine. It has, through other small front groups, focused on other areas such as law, athletics, education, psychology and neuroscience, and of course it once sought direct involvement in government through its establishment of Natural Law Parties in a number of Western countries.

Perhaps the most audacious, or ridiculous, example of how the TM movement today is clearly a millenarian Vedic revivalist movement is its proposal that all existing cities be torn down and reconstructed to its proprietary designs based upon its version of Vedic architectural standards. Yes, it's true, they want to tranform the world so much that, given the opportunity, they'd probably bulldoze your house.

The Transcendental Meditation program is the point of first contact between this millenarian religious movement and the outside world, serving to recruit individuals to perpetuate the movement. Of course, if you were to walk up to someone and invite them to join a movement based on scriptures from some other part of the world, in a dead language that is certainly not their own, and that you wanted them to help take over and reconstruct everything, there would be very few takers. Instead, Transcendental Meditation is the means by which recruits are eventually introduced to all those things, and also, how the organization attempts to gain legitimacy in the surrounding culture. It is a product with a certain amount of value and utility in Western culture - that is, if the claims made for its benefits could be shown to be based upon something a bit more substantial than "the relaxation response" and the placebo effect.

The process by which an initiate learns TM includes some references to those religious and millenarian sorts of things, but they're couched in different terms. The Vedas are mentioned in passing as some vague source of where the knowledge of meditation came from, and the tradition in which TM's founder learned about meditation. The idea of a greater movement is introduced through references to "world peace" that, according to the movement, would result if only enough people meditated. Who could be against a movement that's working toward world peace? But that's merely a vehicle to eventually introduce the more esoteric parts of the TM belief system that certainly aren't going to be mentioned to a reporter writing about the alleged personal benefits of the movement's flagship product.

Because of this clear separation between inner and outer doctrine, any one person who starts the TM program may never come face-to-face with the weirdness and religiosity of the organization's belief system. Depending on how and where any one individual is initiated, and the degree to which they become involved in any of the other programs offered - advanced lectures, residence courses, and the like - such details may simply slip by in the torrent of information included in the process of learning TM. While many who learn TM may never have any further involvement with the organization, a few people will devote a significant portion of their lives to it, and it is those people on whom the movement will rely to perpetuate itself.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

The real problem with the Global Country is not with what it is, but what it will be. That it has theoretical or philosophical roots in "Vedic" old stuff is fine with me. One myth is as good as any other. That it has aspirations for world peace is cool too. Who doesn't?

The thing is, while it claims to be about that Silence underlying All, it also wants to change the material world. Change at the Silence or Spirit is part of the Great Mystical tapestry. Even in Christianity, which is not really a social change religion per se, there is a teaching about how Faith can literally change the world, "If thou has the faith of a mustard seed ...". The GC oversteps this, it requires (eventually) that one rebuild the environment in accord with some "revealed" text, that one perform a spiritual action a number of times a day, that one observe celestial signs, and so forth. This is the history of the TMO and I don't think they see the contradiction.

It is also the history of radical Islam and other religious efforts to bend society to one viewpoint, one way of life, to impose a ruling hierarchy subservient to one Messenger. Thus, one must perform some proscribed action, face a certain way (Vedic architecture), and so forth. It is chilling that the GC is again renewing the effort to bring meditation via schools and that the Taliban means "students". Will we have instead of beard patrols, burger king hat patrols, the use of sari dress tape measures to make sure ankles are not showing?

It is easy to overuse politically charged words to label a group you don't agree with. Such comparisons can be stretched too far. Consider that the Christian based political conservative groups resemble the Taliban more than any New Age organization, imho. And, unlike the GC, have already infiltrated eduction.

I am not dismissing the group, competition is good, rather I'm giving feedback. Just like one must be able to self examine one's life as part of the growth process, so must organizations. It is too easy to mistake Enlightenment and just good ole run of the mill Insanity.

As usual, this thought came to me while in the shower. I can't spend time perfecting it ... late for work.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Right, Scientology has been worse, but I see many similarities: The appropriation of devotees' children, the neglect of normal upbringing for children brainwashed in Maharishi schools while parents spend hours each day away from their kids sitting and pretending to fly, the selfish obsession with higher states of consciousness, and the social control of members through a kind of group think, the abandonment of normal life styles and education resulting in a lower caste of worker bees, unprepared for life outside the institution if an when they rebel, and the crushing consequences for some when they are expelled or when they chose to leave behind so many close family members and friends.

These people need to know that it is possible to leave, move on and thrive. Turning the page can open the doors of greater satisfaction and deeper service during our lifetimes.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

In response to the your last paragraph, it's the "Golden Age Theory" found in a lot of occult-ish new age mythology. The lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, "the pyramids were built by levitating the blocks", flying chariots in the Ramayana, "lots of people had superpowers back then when the earth was young", the 500 year life spans in the Bible, etc etc.

The truth is, there really have been periods in different parts of the world where civilizations made great advances that were subsequently lost. Read Carl Sagan's account of the library at Alexandria which had a great store of scientific knowledge, the loss of which set back the advance of civilization 1500 years. (It's in his book "Cosmos"). I recently watched a documentary on the Roman Empire. Fascinating.

Probably these legends were created in the dark times between the fall of the great civilizations of the past. Exaggerations of storytellers in the oral tradition.

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