Friday, February 25, 2011

Getting Unstuck from TM: The Mystique of Maharishi's "Vibrations"

Several TM-Free Blog contributors and readers have noted that even after 10, 20 or 30 years out of TM, even after years of active recovery work, they continue to unearth areas where they are still "hooked" into the TM belief system.

Sometimes I too go into the mindset where I believe in and excuse the teachings of Mahesh Prasad Varma (the given name of "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi"), even though I know about his lies, double-crossings, opportunism, contradictions, deceptions, back-pedaling, deceit, two-facedness, and all the rest. I am very puzzled by my cognitive swings, and have tried to understand why I still get hooked. I hope my thoughts on this topic will be helpful for other people recovering from the world of Mr. Varma.

I've come to realize that one reason I get re-hooked is that deep inside I believe he is special. Maybe a saint. Maybe God Incarnate, like Jesus or Krishna. Or maybe God's prophet, like Moses or Mohammed. Maybe enlightened, like the Buddha.

If I believe that, then I believe he has a direct pipeline to Ultimate Truth. And if he has a direct pipeline to Ultimate Truth, then it is not my place to critique him, but to follow him. As we say in the West, "God works in mysterious ways," so no matter how obscene or absurd Mr. Varma's teachings seem to me, I still need to support them.

Why would I think that Mr. Varma has a direct pipeline to Ultimate Truth? Here are some of my reasons. Did you fall for any of these, or for others? What convinced you to follow Mr. Varma?

Well, I believed he was God's messenger partly because he was so wise, intelligent, quick-witted, well-rounded, self-assured, patient, loving, all-knowing, joyful, blissful. Because he spoke with such authority and confidence about spiritual things. Because he claimed lineage from Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Because he claimed to be enlightened (or did he only imply it? Does anyone remember his comments on this?)

But most of all because of his amazing aura. Personally, I found his aura overwhelming. His skin was radiant, almost translucent, and it acted like a mirror. It seemed to reflect light. It was actually hard to look directly at him - looking at him was a little like staring into the sun. He virtually shimmered when you looked at him.

And his physical energy field! Oh my! When I was in his presence, I felt transported, high, entranced. Engaged. Intoxicated. I couldn't think straight when I was near him. "I" disappeared - my personal thoughts and personality disappeared, swallowed in the immensity of Love, Power and Energy. Being around him felt like being around an electric generator. It was virtually physical. Like a tidal wave, it would almost knock me over. (It did in fact physically knock over a friend of mine - she fell backwards and I had to catch her.)

Before he'd start a lecture, he'd look slowly around the room at his audience. As his gaze approached me, I felt like a laser beam was approaching. When he looked directly at me, I felt naked. I'd lose all power. I felt he could see right through me, to all my sins. A friend of mine once handed Mr. Varma a flower, and as my friend walked back to his seat, he radiated so much energy (that he had absorbed from his physical proximity to Mr. Varma?) that people in the audience swayed as he passed them. When I sat at Mr. Varma's feet as he begged us to become TM teachers, I could feel only bliss, joy, silence, power, magnetism.

I could go on with more memories - but I'll stop there.

Of all Mr. Varma's attributes, I think it was his amazing energy field more than anything else that swayed me to believe he had Ultimate Truth. So I think it's important for me to demystify his energy field if I'm going to unhook a little more from my belief in his teachings. And if you were influenced by his energy field, I hope this discussion will be helpful to you too.

So, to get a little objectivity and insight into Mr. Varma's powers, I'm going to run a little survey below, engage in some informal, non-scientific data-gathering. If you'd like, please share your stories, comments, answers, insights with us in the "comments" section.

Here is my survey:

(1) Were you ever in the presence of Mr. Varma?

(2) If so, did you experience anything like what I described? Or did you experience something different? Something positive? Something negative? Nothing at all? What did you experience? Do you have any particular memories you would like to share?

(3) Do you know of other people who experienced something similar to me? Or something different? (What?) Or nothing at all?

(4) Were his "vibrations" the same each time you were near him? Or did they change? Did they come and go? When? In what way?

(5) What did you make of his energy at the time?

Did you think it was proof that he was enlightened? Divine? A saint or prophet?

Or did you think he was evil, possessed, working with a dark power, etc?

Or that he simply had an impressive skill, but it didn't prove anything about his spiritual status?
Or did you think he was simply charismatic, a con artist, using hypnotism to produce these results?

Or that we were suggestible, responding to expectation, unconscious material, or peer pressure?

(6) How do you interpret today your past experience of Mr. Varma's vibration?

(7) What does various literature, (Hindu, yogic, religious, scientific, psychological or otherwise), say about this sort of vibration?

(8) Was Mr. Varma's energy "our little secret," our "elephant in the living room," in the TM movement? Did you have an impulse to not discuss it with other TMers or with outsiders? Did you not tell outsiders about his aura because it would sound too religious or brainwashed? Was his energy the thing that convinced you to follow him, but you lied to yourself or to outsiders about that, and said you followed TM due to its scientific research or results?

(9) Have you ever experienced a similar energy around anyone else; or do you know anyone who has? What do you - or they - make of it?

(10) What made you give your heart and/or mind to Mr. Varma?

Now it's your turn.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I was told that Mahesh’s name was Mahesh Chandra Shrivastava. Varma was his mother’s family. I was introduced (by Sattyanand) to Mahesh’s brother, who’s family name was Shrivastava. I doubt that this is of any significance whatsoever, but it’s interesting to mention.

I started reading through your questionnaire, but it triggered too many old memories and the muck that goes with them (the muck, but no longer the behaviour or inclinations). But I think the questions are important and I might just do the whole “test” (slowly over time) to see what all’s up with that!

One of my personal experiences with Mahesh was that sometimes he actually was right. He was also a consummate con artist, so that once-in-a-while being right played a really critical role in his ability to pull the polyester over the eyes of the masses.

Mahesh was a cunning manipulator of others. He skilfully used charm and giggling innocence to waltz past the defence mechanisms of others. Before you knew it, it really seemed that he was right there, right inside you. He was so good (!) that it always seemed that whatever actions we took really was because we had thought it through and decided on our own.

Like the con so frequently played out in TV sit-coms: make ‘em think it was their idea — this really sums up just how he went about gathering supporters and then getting his support system to, basically, do his dirty work (and, whenever possible, give him money for the privilege).

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

(1) Were you ever in the presence of Mr. Varma?

(2) If so, did you experience anything like what I described?
It was special, very impressive. I felt an absence of ego.

(3) N/A

(4) Were his "vibrations" the same each time you were near him?

(5) What did you make of his energy at the time?
I had some feeling that I might be suggestible but mostly I was – remain impressed.
(6) How do you interpret today your past experience of Mr. Varma's vibration?
(7) N/A

(8) Was Mr. Varma's energy "our little secret," Was his energy the thing that convinced you to follow him, No to both.

(9) Have you ever experienced a similar energy around anyone else;

(10) What made you give your heart and/or mind to Mr. Varma?
I never did.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

There is also a 'team of architects and engineers' who think the world trade center was a controlled demolition. But there is a much lager and better qualified team who think it wasn't. It's going to take a lot more than that. In fact many, maybe even most, esoteric and conspiracy theory groups have some sort of 'proof' and their own team of scientists to back it up. Good research is hard to do but bad, biased research is commonplace, incredibly easy and incredibly likely in fact. Publish the research in a peer reviewed journal and if you manage to get quite a few such studies accepted I'd take a look.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

lexico writes: "I seriously doubt I am alone in this feeling that you are constructing sentences that are way more complicated and convoluted then they need to be." No, you are not alone. IMO, kind of like the writings of RWC don't you think?

A comment from Part 3 of some of Carlsen's writings that appeared in this blog in June 2009: In his writings, Carlsen expresses this "specialness" that he feels, this "lofty pedestal" to which he holds the teachings and the Master, and this utter disdain that he apparently feels for those around him who can't see what he does. And I would expect that a majority of the people on those same courses had similar feelings…they just didn't write about them.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I suspect horses when I hear hoofbeats, but Carlsen when I hear Zebra. I think they are the same.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Dear Readers/Commenters,

Thank you all, very much, for your comments to my post. I have found them fascinating, informative, and helpful to my personal recovery. I hope they are helpful to other people too.

Writing about Varma's "vibes" was a challenge for me, because it was like trying to express that ineffable transcendent plane that mystics of all traditions have trouble finding words for. So I was glad that Masked Zebra and Charlie Hopkins both used words that matched my experience. (Charlie, "I was suddenly in infinite space with stars shining around me" also matched my experience.)

Karina, thanks for the insider info about Maharishi's skin condition, and the pancake makeup he used. Does this makeup make the skin glow? By the way, the skin boy who told you (Walter), was this Walter Day? I knew Walter from Fairfield. I knew his former fiance Barbara Gianino too. Anyone know her?

Masked Zebra, regarding no one being able to stand up to Varma, I do recall a Christian cleric (Bishop in England?) once debating him on TM vs. Christianity. Anyone else recall that? Also your hypothesis that he was being used by Vedic gods - how did you come to this theory? Was it by scholarly research, or did a Being come to you and tell you? Or your intuition? Your theory has much in common with Christians who believe he was in league with/possessed by the devil, or was the AntiChrist. Are you coming to this conclusion from a Christian perspective?

Masked Zebra, I felt your comment "No, he was not a saint. I never saw him express any humility" was insightful! Wish I had thought of that! Also, I didn't ask "Did you have an impulse to talk about his "vibe"?" Rather I asked, "Did you have an impulse to NOT talk about his vibe?" i.e., was he giving us cues to not discuss it, just like we got cues to dance around stuff like the mantras.

I've thought of one more word to describe that indescribable quality of Varma: "majesty."

Thank you to everyone who answered the survey so far. I hope more readers who feel so inclined will also answer. I personally am particularly interested in finding out if there were people who felt "nothing special" around the guy.

I am trying to find out if Sudarsha is right and I am wrong about MMY's original name. If I am wrong, I will edit the correction into the post.

Deborah, thanks for calling this the "post of the year." I am flattered!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

The Wiki article mentions both names for Maharishi. The name Sudarsha mentions was found as a distinguished Allahabad University alumni, M. C. Shrivastava, and Paul Mason calls him the Varma name in his Autobiography. And speaking of Sudarsha, the quote that Deborah called the "post of the year" was made by Sudarsha.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Laurie-- I don't know Walter's last name, or his fiancees name, but I met Walter at a health retreat in San Diego in the 80's. We discovered that we had a mutual past history of TM. He then revealed that he had been a "skin boy" in Fiuggi.....then for about three days I listened with rapt attention to all his stories. Although at that time I was completely finished with Mahesh as a guru, but despite that, I was truly shocked by what I learned from Walter. Not only the make-up information, but stories about his midnight trysts, and other unsavory details of the guru with the clay feet. Yes, make-up can definitely make one all glowey----just look at Oprah, and the rest of Hollywood.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thank you Sudarsha.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Weren't we all ripe for the picking? My first encounter was on the coast of Spain, near Portugal, an evening soon after we arrived, and I was in no mood to go ga ga, but I got caught up in the flow, and, there I was, with my flower too on the second night, and it was all downhill from there. During one Q & A, I asked him about something more personal about Guru Dev, and the tape of his 20 minute answer became a regular feature of future courses. I was very proud of that. Seriously, teacher training was a wonderful time for me, and I do not think we should reject the actual benefits of the TM practice and rounding, which I thought were very good for me. I also enjoyed initiating and the 4 - 6 week rounding courses at Cobb and Soboba. Early on, you could even get a decent meal which could include chicken or turkey, and even get in the pools when the gestapo was not looking.

It was the sidhis which was the beginning of the end for me. I learned mine at Soboba, full of beautiful humming birds in low nests, along with Andy Kaufman, or "Sitting Bull" as we called him, because Andy refused to 'fly.' I didn't like the aren't we wonderful attitudes of the early 'Governors' who used their office to take over our local center, and the endless lectures, the never ending flow of self congratulatory verbiage, especially from Bevan, I just could not stand sitting still through all that verbosity, it was real torture for me. I must confess that TM was more than anything else a network in which I found many beautiful women, a few of whom were able to return my affections, and friendships, just fine friendships with both boys and girls was a very wonderful thing. My visits to Fairfield were always disappointing, however, largely for the reasons I cite above. The flying bit and the big f...... egos were just as bad as the radical politics I had given up for TM. It required a suspension of reason; no room for critical thought, so that was it for me.

I think Maharishi flattered our vanity, and much of what TM is is very self absorbed selfishness. I often feel high with no drugs, no drink, no TM. I don't know if the experience of bliss is something my body recalls from the most blissful times on the Atlantic shore of Spain or midst the quail at Cobb Mountain or the humming birds at Soboba, but , I know this, bliss is real, bliss is a routine part of a well lived, honest life.

Does anyone remember the tape of Barbara De Angeles saying at Humboldt, "Maharishi, I came out of silence to ask you this question?"

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sweet reflections Zoltan! I suppose the interesting question we will never answer is what would we be like if we had never gone down that path? Many of my childhood friends didn't do so well. A few are dead! Some drug addicted. But some blossomed in their outer lives and ended up with "more" than I did.

For me it is a very mixed bag. I went to actual college but I really got my education from the movement; traveling, communing, and trying so hard to grok the deep aspects of life and the mind so I could be a better meditator and a better teacher, so many interesting and bright people in the movement then, so young and so full of hope. We really believed we had the answers and that was a powerful intoxicant - true or not, it felt good and it put the wind in your sails. Though I now see so much of it as BS I can't help but feel that all that effort and passion we put into our practice and our teaching had to produce some real fruit.

But part of that engrossment in TM was the blotting out of non-TM. I remember coming home from courses and looking at my bookshelf of some of the worlds great literature and philosophy and thinking to myself how useless, superficial, and moribund it all was - the bookshelf actually had the same dull, dirty aura I saw everywhere it seemed - in airports, malls, in others, they actually LOOKED stale as if covered by some etheric patina of our stressed and dying age, a sort of nicotine stain of the soul, and inside I hated that this had been done to my world. Things also looked wonderful too, it was an odd contradiction, their status as a physical thing was amazing, as if not even kali yuga could destroy their intrinsic nature, so fresh after rounding, but the content was stale. And you were always waiting, waiting for the day you could really experience beauty in CC. Till then you had to be yearing, right? This kind of thinking was a real trap and I think a bit of it was a carryover from acid which also left you feeling flat all the time, knowing how much more wonderful things could be when the doors of perception were cleaned. I'm not sure if I'm getting that in the right philosophical jargon but maybe you can relate. I was so young and I really fell into us and them thinking.

Being an east coast initiator I fell under the spell of Charlie Donahue who in turn was a devotee of Jerry Jarvis and from these men I learned some measure of moderation in my attitude. I decided to hedge my bets and instead of going 100% TM I kept an alternate 'normal' life going, to a degree, and I am now very thankful I did this. I think as a side project I was trying to love the world again even as TM was killing it. It was only years later that this distinction between TM and non-TM finally died out and I felt like a part of the world again.

The sidhis and the nazi-like executive governors and all that ruined it for me too. TM people began to seem so mechanical, so predictable, so COLD. It was then that it crystallized for me that I was not a lifer and eventually I dared to not meditate and just live and it was then that the world came back to me as a lovable, wonderful thing and I no longer waited to enjoy..

Did TM carry me to that point? Or had TM been derailing it all along? That to me is the interesting question.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I might have posted this previously, Avidyananda, but it seems appropriate to mention it again here.

Mind means saṃsāric mind. But if this mind is comprehended for what it actually is, then its nature also will be known and that nature is wisdom. Full recognition of one’s own wisdom is enlightenment.

This is from a Tibetan text I have, but it certainly parallels precisely what you have contributed. Additionally, it leads me, again and again, to question Mahesh's competence as a teacher. On the one hand he could remind us over and over about no-thought/no-mantra, yet never teach anything that led any of us to recognize that that was the nature of mind, the essence of wisdom, the basis of enlightenment.

It was as if his constant harping on CC, GC, UC was a purposeful distraction, lest any of us notice that we were making actual progress. Perhaps that is where is real competence resided, in his ability to keep us guessing, buying more and more, hanging on his every word!

Yet, we were so close and a genuine teacher, unconcerned with his own needs and well-being, could so easily have given us that nudge in the right direction.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"I was so young and I really fell into us and them thinking."

Lexico....Oh, that comment hurt; it had the sting of unremembered truth.

I had forgotten how pompous we were, just like born-again Hindus. We even thought we knew more about the Hindu sacred tradition than the Hindus themselves!

Yes, I too can now find bliss in a sunny day or a phone call from a friend. It is so different from waiting for CC to dawn. Thanks for your insightful comments.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

The passage you quote, Sudarsha, is most appropriate. I have always been impressed by the similarity of the various contemplative traditions, with how closely they agree on the main principles.

As for why MMY chose not to give us this knowledge and gave us the questionable CC, GC, UC instead:

I have often wondered about that myself since in the early days he apparently gave us the traditional beginner's knowledge, although dumbed down a bit for Westerners.

The real reason is probably as you state.
But I have had the thought that he might have been reluctant to take us any further because of safety concerns, since most of us were not qualified for the deeper knowledge at that time. There were enough people going off the deep end even with the beginner stuff. So he stuck with the pseudo Vedanta/Yoga, which eventually turned into the bogus Siddhis practice.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

the responding space is shrinking! I'll reply below

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Replying to Avidyananda745 (above)

The Lamas who came to the West were very concerned that Westerners could not handle the teachings - so were extremely cautious. However, it seems that there is quite a difference between being cautious about the teachings being risky for Westerners and how Mahesh repeatedly held long rounding courses with disastrous consequences for some.

Mahesh seems only ever to have had basic TM (and some fiddly bits called advanced techniques). Perhaps Mahesh's penchant for talk (distraction) was his way of handling his very limited knowledge base.

It is abundantly clear that he was making zero headway with TM, lamenting, himself, that every time he returned to some city where he'd done hundreds of initiations, there was no one meditating there anymore (although that's very possibly hyperbole on his part, as there were always a few who stuck with TM).

But then the Beatles made him famous and subsequently famous for being dumped.

This gave us the huge rounding courses, with their horrendous nothing good is happening results for some of the participants. More was being demanded by more and more! So, he invented the Age of Enlightenment courses, mostly based on stuff Yogananda taught. Then the 'sidhi' stuff which nearly destroyed his organization.

He made tonnes of money and lost a huge chunk of his following all in one sweeping gesture of grandiosity.

I don't really have a quarrel with basic TM, 2x20 - for adults only. But I also see very little development from this. In other traditions with which I have some familiarity, the development appears to be much more substantial and the drop-out rate less dramatic than what we have seen in TM. But that's my perspective. There are no doubt others based on different criteria.

You mention being "since most of us were not qualified for the deeper knowledge at that time". I think there are many ways to see/understand such a concept. Hence, many traditions have a very structured approach so that a learner can grow and/or the teacher can determine where the student stands in the scheme of things and take it from there.

Mahesh only ever had basic TM with long, long waits for advanced techniques. Then, suddenly, there was the 'sidhi' program and everyone was suddenly ready for everything.

Just does not smack of competence on his part. But the faithful will continue to rationalize and those of us now post-TM will continue to shake our heads.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"I don't really have a quarrel with basic TM, 2x20 - for adults only. But I also see very little development from this."

I suggest an ironic proof that TM DID work for many of us: Many TMers gained so much increased insight from their practice that they finally perceive that MMY was not what he claimed to be, and they left the movement. His technique had unintended consequences for him. Therefore, I have often wondered if the true believers of today ever got anything from their TM practice. Of course, most people who stopped TM did so for other reasons, I assume.

The absence of teacher oversight and structured approach as in other traditions you mention is one of the most important weaknesses of the TM program I believe. Meditators have problems, they practice beyond their capacity, and they don't understand what they are doing. Also, as you suggest, they don't have any way to increase their knowledge since all that is offered is pseudo-science.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Irony was so often so comprehensively lost on Mahesh and the TM faithful.

TM teachers really had nearly nothing by way of actual "learning" and/or insight. That many TM teachers were really quite brilliant and had an obvious knack for teaching has consistently amazed me. While it may now be obvious that the "knack" for teaching and what Mahesh offered up as "teaching" are two very different things - then, it was not so obvious.

Mahesh was a very accomplished salesman, as were many who were attracted to him. They could have as skillfully sold blankets at the equator! But the ordinary person was unable to make this distinction which is why so many ordinary people were attracted to Mahesh.

As you observe: some got stuck in their desires and some got freed from their desires.

Thank you, Avidyananada, for seeing the irony.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi Karina, Thanks for the info. If you can remember any of the details from what Walter told you, I for one would love you to post them. Also, thanks for the additional info about cosmetics. (I don't watch TV much, so I didn't know about Oprah.)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I'm not an expert on various types of meditation, but I know that there are types that are more closely structured and supervised than TM. I also have little doubt that Maharishi's main motivation was making money. But from what I know of these other traditions, they require a great deal of effort and discipline, which is why relatively few people practice them for any length of time. I think that Maharishi's genius, as it were, lay in the fact that he recognized that 'westerners' were not interested in this; they were interested in what was quick and easy. Also, don't forget that while it may be true that Maharishi first came to prominence through his association with the Beatles, when they dropped him he sunk like a stone. At one time he reportedly lamented that he had failed in his mission. The fact that the mission got restarted was probably due to the zeitgeist of the times, but also to the fact that there may have really been something to TM.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I don't watch Oprah either, but for the last ten years her magazine "O," with her shimmering soft-brown radiant countenance on the cover, is prominently displayed in the check-out line at every grocery store, pharmacy, and mass merchandiser. In my city, it's almost impossible to miss seeing her image every time I go to the store. I often thought how Oprah's skin tone looks like Mahesh's, due mainly to airbrushing and make-up.

Regarding the other info ---- much of it was salacious, or at least those are the parts I really remember. Even though I have little to no respect for Mahesh, I don't want to mention the other details out of respect for some of Mahesh's other female victims.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi Morris, I'm not an expert either. I have had 3 teachers after Maharishi, all from the Indian traditions. Meditation is the main component of the path for 2 of these 3, but in every case instruction is a brief sentence or two and you're on your own, the main follow up advice, "Keep going." There is a kind of self confidence taught that, "You can do it." I have never studied Buddhist meditation, except for a brief period when I was 20. I couldn't get much out of Zen at that time but when I started TM, it was like a bright light being turned on in a dark warehouse. Immediate awareness of rooms in my own being that I never knew existed. This for me was the basis of getting caught up in the TM movement. The meditation was fantastic, so more of it would be even more fantastic. But it wasn't so. It is too bad that Maharishi had so little humility that he couldn't just say, "Keep going. You can do it." He tried to make himself the hollow core door between us and ourselves.

I wonder if Buddhist training appeals to one kind of person and the less structured paths appeal to another. Maybe Sudarsha can say. My teachers, other than Maharishi, seem to believe that too much talking about the technique, etc, just adds another layer of thinking.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Actually, Mahesh and the Beatles met just after Mahesh declared his mission a failure. As far as I can see, the Beatles dumping him was the best thing that ever happened to him (finance- and fame-wise).

His reaction? The monster Initiator factories in Mallorca, Fiuggi and La Antilla. The 'sidhi' scam, all his alternative medicines and suchwhat.

Yes, I think he knew he had failed long before he ran into the Beatles or they into him, Morris. It was plain that TM simply did not do what he claimed it would.

But the Beatles showed him that there were other ways to fame and fortune and he went after it like flies after (then, here, insert a rude word of your choice).

But, there is no question that there is something to TM, just as there is something to aspirin! Mahesh just had the wrong claims and succeeded in being the worst thing to ever happen to TM.

With respect to other forms of meditation, it is always surprising to me to come across some text translated in the 19th century and finding that there is great importance placed on effortlessness.

Mahesh was clever, very, very intelligent, crafty and exceptionally charming (when he wanted to be or when he just wanted something). But he made the fatal error of getting his information from his followers or trying to shortcut by getting spiritual information from 'experts' without going through the necessary training. The TMO in all its profoundly bizarre glory is what one ends up with going about it that way.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Charlie -- I do know something about Buddhism and have studied in the Soto Zen tradition, post-TM. But, long before I knew about TM, I had been interested in meditation and had read and experimented for about 4 years before learning TM.

I know the experience you cite.

However, as I mentioned to Morris above, Mahesh simply put TM into the wrong context and failed (unless millionaires in flowing garments and silly hats is a mark of success, which, in some twisted way, I suppose it is).

The various Buddhist traditions vary in how demanding they are. But I also sympathize with your observation that part of what is going on is the individual him/herself. If you cannot understand, for example, the Buddhist context, then trying to make a go of Buddhism will just be counterproductive. Here, Mahesh presented a come-on or scam or context that attracted a lot of people. Percentage-wise, not many stuck with TM, either, as many TM teachers discovered.

But, TM has more to offer than the context Mahesh sold us like a prize in a grab-bag.

Definitely, talking about techniques and methods simply smothers the techniques and methods. Mahesh smothered us with CC, GC, UC, SCI, his Feng Shui, his 'sidhi' concoction and all his fake-science about how wonderful TM was. - Had he been able to let go of his own ego and narcissism (which I suppose are much the same), he might have learnt more about TM and not wound up the crackpot lunatic he did.

Maybe this is why Guru Dev never seems to have offered Mahesh anything, Mahesh's stories only tell us that he took from Guru Dev, went for the shortcut, the easy way, the quick way.

And totally missed the boat.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Some related interesting questions would be 'When did MMY lose his magic for you, and how did that come about?'

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I never really felt a lot coming from Maharishi in the darshan department. He bored me to be honest. All along I was actually a bit embarrassed by his intellectual sloppiness, particularly in the SCI course which I thought was rambling and vague. What I did like was TM and the checking and teaching methods and I also thought that even though Maharishi was a lightweight intellectually he had a great practical grasp of things which made his instincts generally correct even if he was off on the details of the theory behind them. I also bought the 'scientific research'. I knew so little then about how hard it is to do good research. I also trusted the integrity movement scientists. Since my experience told me that TM was revolutionary and uniquely effective I tended to give maharishi the benefit of the doubt and more or less accept that anything else he had to offer would be equally revolutionary and if he turned out to be off on some of them I figured this was a small price to pay for pushing things in a generally correct direction - we would work out the details later I reasoned..

But the failure of the Sidhis to produce any results along with the stream of palpably kooky stuff like astrology and ayer veda and the $10,000 vedic ceremonies which I did not feel good about and which went directly against the scientific paradigm convinced me that Maharishi was not infallible and this in turn eroded my confidence in the core practice of TM until at last I let go of the idea that he was divinely inspired at all. How could he be incorrect about ANYTHING, let alone about so many things, if he was divine? This simple logical failure was enough to counter my simpleminded, unquestioning confidence in the man. In the end I had to make a call - had TM been all that he claimed it would be FOR ME? - and the answer was no.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Deborah has asked a very important question and, Lexico, you have given one of the best responses I think I have ever seen.

Thank you both


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I am amazed that the failure of the siddhis did not result in a mass exodus. Talk about the emperor's new clothes!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I think it did lead to a big exodus. It was obvious that there was a lot of lying about the techniques by returning teachers. But for me the techniques had a very powerful effect, ie kundalini, bliss, excitation, and for a while it seemed like something wonderful was happening. After 10 more years of speaking in tongues and weird body movements, I quit! Maharishi was a big fat liar and for a long time I enjoyed that.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hey, Deborah & Charlie

Yes, there was a stampede for the exits when Mahesh announced the 'sidhi' stuff. I heard, don't have the evidence to hand, that several TM centres in the UK quit the Movement. Apparently, many of Gurdjieff 's followers

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I too enjoyed the Sidhis Charlie. Something I was pretty sure was Kundalini was running like crazy up my spine. I was just barely 20 and very naive and adventurous, what the hell, sidhis, hell yea! . To this day, on the rare occasion I do it, I still get 'bubbling bliss' and I'm not entirely sure it's just some sort of delusion - I'm not sure what it is to be honest but it does feel like life energy of a sort, maybe it's just adrenalin or dopamine or something, probably not the SECRET to life, not in my final analysis, but it might be a good influence if you take the TM woo out of it.

But all the 'powers' I thought maybe I was getting for sure turned out to be illusion. I think it did wake up the 'chi' or the 'shakti' though, for what that's worth and whatever 'chi' really is. I put a lot of effort into yoga so I could maintain a strong lotus and I put a lot of passion in my practice desperately trying to finally fly! That passion and effort wasn't all for nothing I don't think. I really worked it hard.

I guess most of us fully believed in supernormal powers before the TM-sidhis came out. I did. There were so many accounts from ancient texts and from recent and contemporary mystics too, like Yogananda. I didn't really care that much about gaining powers but I did care about the supposed acceleration of your evolution - they were saying the sidhis were THOUSANDS of times more powerful than TM! (what did that say about mere TM and the three to five year thing BTW? Oh well.) Iv'e come to believe there are no powers, after all the failure, the obvious frauds and deluded narcissistic, egomaniac believers who claim to have them but cannot demonstrate them, and because of the scientific improbability of it.

I didn't question that we could actually gain powers but I did question the wisdom of teaching them from a PR standpoint. I think Maharishi saw the writing on the wall. The Merv Griffin boom was dying out and we lost the New Jersey school case and the prospects looked a little bleak for any further rapid adoption of TM by the masses. You could say it was a cash grab from the faithful but you could also argue it made sense for us in the movement IF it was going to actually work - although there was no reason it had to cost as much as it did - if TM was not going to catch fire then at least we could take many who had learned and give them more powerful stuff to do, perhaps it was both a cash grab and a sincere effort - that all depends on if Maharishi actually believed in the sidhis I guess. I'm not sure if he was deluded about his methods and his knowledge or if he was just in it for the money and adulation.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Lexico -- It was so refreshing to read of your experience post-rounding, because I had the same experience, and this is the first time I've seen anyone else write about it. I'm referring to your perception of objects/people/the world being covered over with with sin, with a sullying nicotine-like stain. (Everything that was not TM-related.) I experienced it looking at the people on the street in any city except Fairfield; everything felt dirtied and inferior and polluting. Even when I was at MIU (MUM), the people who were "only meditators" or "semi-Sidhas" (who had not yet learned the "flying") -- they felt polluting, and I was scared to be around them. And although I tried not to show it, I felt they were inferior human beings.

I realize now that all of these perceptions were beliefs that Mr. Varma had taught us - and taught us when we were in a state of reduced critical thinking (rounding, bored, under group pressure, away from non-TMers, etc.). "Don't socialize with non-Sidhas while you're learning the Sidhis, because you're trying to retrain your brains, and the brain waves of non-Sidhas are different," and "Everything south of Rishikesh is just mud, and we don't even talk about it.," etc. It was really painful to live like that, feeling that each breath I took polluted me. It took me many, many years to get out of that mindset. Perhaps that's what the Nazis were brainwashed to feel - like they were surrounded by human filth or "subhumans." When I left Fairfield, my sister (a Sidha) said to me, apropros perhaps of this brainwashed mindset, "You'll come crawling back to TM on your hands and knees."

Karina -- re: the stories Walter told you, I don't want you to betray any people or name names. What I was looking for were the part of the stories that showed Mr. Varma to be less than saint-like. Perhaps lying, unscrupulous, etc. Thanks!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

What I'd really like to know is if there were angry discussions about the flying siddhi not working, people being conned, etc, or if everyone was just happy to accept hopping on foam mats as a worthwhile outcome.

Did anyone ever demand a refund?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

An important question, Deborah!

I think there were such arguments, on the old a.m.t., now defunct. Koprinsky (not sure of the right spelling) sued. I don't know who demanded (or got) any kind of refund. K won his case and used the money, apparently, to go to India and ask Guru Dev's successor what was going on.

See Interview with the Shankaracharya.

I suspect that if you asked your question on Rick Archer's Fairfield Life, someone might have more specific details. But be prepared for the Maheshites to defend the validity of what they believe in and deny the existence (ever) of anything to the contrary.

I remember the media hype spawned by the TMO: Mahesh saying we'd fly to the moon, walk throw walls, etc. - such hype ceased after word got out that it was crap on a cracker.

However, some people felt a definite "result" and I know of no useful way to argue over "feelings" or experiences. Suffice it to say that outside the laboratories of the TMO, nothing approaching validation or proof exists ... at least not that I know of.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I remember seeing comments here by one of the people who sued. He had become the devotee of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, who used to run full page attack ads against Maharishi in the Fairfield newspaper. Funnily enough this
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was convicted last Friday of 20 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 14 years per count. Now he's on the lam, probably trying to make his way back to the safety of India.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yea lexico, it's amazing to me now what I was able to convince myself of, based on an internal mental experience, or a subtle body experience. But these are so convincing when they are happening. Maharishi's philosophy of "more" found good soil to grow in for many of us. And the experiences were wonderfully fulfilling in themselves. Maybe it's just me but I see nothing tragic in having spent my youth and a big part of my adult life trying to find God and truth in the best ways I knew how. I have lost nothing. We may have been foolish but we were also brave and hopeful. I am not sorry for any of it.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

As for proof I remember being in the dome back probably in the early eighties when they had everyone put their attention on some device they had up front, it might have been an atomic clock, and we were instructed to mentally influence it somehow, some sidhi-like repetition of 'change the clock' or somesuch. Anyone remember this? Apparently it didn't budge one microsecond or else they would have published. I have never seen ANY evidence at all that anyone performed any supernormal feat - you only heard the inevitable rumors about it but we know how reliable they are - no, you have to either put up or shut up as they say and after all this time it should be possible to formally demonstrate something. What, could they not demonstrate even one ounce of body weight lost while flying? Something, anything, however small the effect . . .

James Randi is offering a million bucks to anyone who can perform a psychic act under very controlled conditions, so far NOBODY has claimed it, certainly not TM. Think of the good publicity if they did? Enrollment at MUM would explode! Obviously they can't. They spend hours a day for years trying to do something and they have NOTHING to show for it, not one ounce or millisecond.

So why do they continue? I think many of them are experiencing something they enjoy, at least to a degree. When it came to flying I did experience SOMETHING - that something may have been shakti, kundalini, or whatever and I would like to know what that experience was, scientifically, what caused the chills and the thrills. It could just be a self-generated, psycho-somatic sort of delirium that caused adrenalin or some other chemicals to spurt and it may be of little value but since we interpret that as the great kundalini and as a sort of precursor to flying we give it a value it does not deserve but I'm not so sure about that. Has anyone figured out what Kundalini is?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I think some people must have been unhappy and I did hear about that one lawsuit but the teachers were too scared and/or brainwashed to do anything and there was so much peer pressure to say you were getting blissed and bouncy even if you were flat empty inside! If you failed you surely knew it was because you were a dud, not the technique, all those others weren't just playing along were they?

By the time the 'citizens of the age of enlightenment' (ie the meditators) were going to courses you were required to sign an 'expectation form', which I think covered the movement if your expectations were not met. Basically it said you should not expect anything, LOL. Indeed whenever I told meditators about the course I was very blunt about it - nobody was flying, it was energy bubbling up, you were bouncing and probably not defying gravity at all, YET. This was a great experiment and we were just in the early stages so you go for the increased energy and bliss, not to fly. The people I sent were forewarned. I made a point of it, possibly to the consternation of some fellow initiators who were not so conservative.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

You were one of the brave ones, Lexico. By the time I finished governor training, I was done with teaching and walking a fine line between blissful heaven and barking hell. One teacher from my center also tried to sue. Can't remember his name. In the early days of his course, he had broken the rules by walking from the MIU campus to buy himself a fish sandwich. Got thrown off the course and was refused a refund. Came home and tried to start a mini revolution. I sympathized with him but out of cowardice refused to get involved. He ended up teaching TM at a local Unity Church, until threatened by a lawsuit himself. After the first few lawsuits, the doctored photos of Johnny Gray in the air disappeared and there was lots less talk of the existence of towers with landing pads being built for us siddhas. Several people I knew well went certifiably insane from the course but that might have happened anyway, who can say?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"self-generated, psycho-somatic sort of delirium that caused adrenalin or some other chemicals to spurt and it may be of little value but since we interpret that as the great kundalini "

. . . or any other "blissful", "high", "devotional" sensation that one can experience from chanting, praying, ritual or the entrance of one's guru into the room. I'm convinced this is the case, lexico. You can see the same physical/emotional states being experienced by groups in charismatic Christian mega churches and religious revivals etc. The same intensity of experience is there. Because "spiritual yoga" based groups attribute this to their meditation/purification practices, they assume their experiences are more "real", in a pseudoscientific way. But it's really just faith, auto suggestion, confirmation bias and a sort of group hysteria and solidarity. The mental and physical sensations are real, overwhelming and pleasurable, which is why people are so reluctant to question what they actually indicate.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, I must admit that seeing rural, hick charismatic Christians swooning, getting miraculously 'healed', writhing in the holy spirit, and speaking in tongues did dampen my enthusiasm a bit! They feel invigorated too I'd wager, very invigorated. Maybe it's not all bad, maybe even healthy, but it ain't miraculous.

Hey, at the Amherst course in 78 or 79 we had hundreds, maybe thousands of group flyers, one of the very first mass flying courses, anyway, in one of the rooms used for the men's flying we had a guy from North Carolina (IIRC) we called 'the preacher', he just sat there very loudly praying to Jesus, " Jesus, I got to have it, I got to have it RIGHT NOW . . JEEEEESUS." And he had a sort of following people sitting nearby egging him on. This was before the order came down to get quiet and people were acting as if they were BARKING MAD, literally, barking, jerking, flailing, reciting random dialog from Leave it to Beaver, making sounds there are no words for ! LOL Not even an insane asylum could have rivaled the absurdity of what went on in these rooms as mediators unstressed years of something they might well have been stifling in silent meditation. Couple this with the fact that many of these people were quite probably certifiable and you had a very interesting situation to say the least.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Good questions, Lexico

I have no idea what folks mean when they talk about kuṇḍalinī experiences. The only possibly positive experience I had from the ‘sidhi’ course was when I was given the “flying” technique. I felt a real thrill run straight up my back immediately Mahesh had said the words.

Nothing further of that nature ever happened.

However, on the not so positive side, I got extraordinarily fatigued from the ‘sidhi’ program. Perhaps this is because I was also doing the A of E program (just the first part, not the whole thing that was done on the 6-month course).

It got so bad that finally the penny dropped and I dumped all of it.

With respect to the “why” of why people continue – that is a mystery to me. Some folks are clearly not living a happy life whilst persisting with the ‘sidhi’ stuff. Others don’t seem to exhibit anything I could call either negative or positive (but what they actually experience is not something anyone can actually know).

It is entirely possible that some folks literally get off on the notion that they are doing something not only special but something way, way beyond that. Mahesh managed to keep his followers isolated from the outside world, mostly by harping endlessly about the purity of the teaching (which he had no difficulty mucking with when it suited him). So it is easy for some folks to literally hide out inside the Mahesh mind-set and never have or think about anything with which to compare their lives. We sometimes see this in the (other ?) fundamentalist religions.

That there does not appear to be anything testable that can be validated in any sort of non-partisan or objective manner seems, to me at least, to speak to the imaginative side of what is going on. Having worked in hospital for something like 30 years, it never ceased to amaze me what people not only believed, but acted upon with adamantine disregard for anything that might have been evidence contradictory to their beliefs.

Perhaps Mahesh’s “sidhi” was simply getting people to believe and subsequently isolate themselves from anything and everything that was other than that belief.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

The 'expectations disclaimer' is really appalling. Why would anyone agree to pay a huge fee for training and sign it? And why would anyone pay for flying lessons after it had been shown that they were ineffective?

When I was involved, initiation was $35, and the residence courses and TTC were very reasonably priced. The rooms were comfotqble and the food was excellent and abundant.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

These days, we can check out most everything and everyone on the Internet. We simply could not do that back in the day. But TM and Mahesh were more believable back then, too - and this is partly because of relatively reassuring things like course fees and decent food and accommodation on courses (and no outlandish claims like yogic flying!).

Then, things changed. Now (perhaps less so then), it is quit so obvious that money was becoming the object of Mahesh's quest. His world plan quest for domination simply was not viable, but taking money from anyone he could was.

We see this in many situations every day, now: we are willing to go along with what seems to be a good thing; when that good thing shows signs of change, we are inclined to stick with it because it started out as something good. Many people will stick with the change in hopes that things will get better. -- in the goofy land of the TMO, I think people are stuck mentally and financially with something they cannot change and cannot abandon. We see similar situations with "bad" marriages, toxic parents, the miserable boss, the falling down house.

What to do? I wish I knew.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Such a good answer. I remember in Mallorca when MMY made his big announcement of is world plan. Everyone was so thrilled and eager to be part of it. No one thought to question it. But I am talking about years later, when the shine was already off the siddhi courses, and the expectations disclaimer was imposed. Why did anyone sign on for something that was already known to be a failure?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"Repeating my question, why did anyone sign on for something that was already known to be a failure?"

The answer is probably a complicated mix of factors but the short answer was that you did not consider the lack of hovering to be a failure. What was being described by the executive governors, hovering or not, was a glowing success.

It might help to know that pretty quickly the word was out that people weren't flying, just hopping, but that hopping was the first stage of flying ( I believe Patanjali actually lays out several stages, shaking, hoping, walking on spider webs, and then flying), this was how I learned of it in 77 when the first 'executive governors' returned. I never heard any of them claim they were hovering, although there were some apocryphal accounts of hovering and also some questionable posters which implied FLYING, this was not ever the official position of the TMO. So if you listened to what they were really claiming your expectations were a bit lowered from the start. But those same executive governors were GUSHING about how blissful and powerful the hopping was and they at least implied that the hopping was spontaneous - so you imagined that some extraneous force was lifting you off the ground. This was enough to whet your desire for sure. Maybe you would not actually fly until world consciousness improved but experiencing the 'first stage' of flying and all that bliss was enough of a pull. This kind of modified expectation has continued to pull people in even now.

As for the expectation form, well, you could easily rationalize that this was just to protect the movement legally from unreasonable and demanding people who would be disappointed when they did not hover, and from those who would not even hop. Naturally, as a devoted follower, you assumed they would not be hopping because of a problem on their side, not Maharishi's. I wish I recalled exactly what that form said but it's just a blur now. But we sign all sorts of 'terms of agreement forms' which essentially remove all liability from vendors and we use a similar rationalization - we figured the movement was just using the standard overkill to protect itself legally.

I was shocked when I first received the technique. I could not believe it would be so simple as to just repeat the sutra in English while meditating. My instinct was that this was all wrong, it could not be so basic .I was also kind of shocked to discover that hopping was not fully spontaneous - it was at best semi-spontaneous, a bit like a cough or a sneeze - there was an impulse to bounce but you had to help it along a bit. Somehow in the desire to be one of the chosen ones who hopped and in my blind devotion I glossed over this discrepancy.

What kept you going after that was the programming AND the experience - the experience was actually pleasurable for many and you kept doing it for that reason much as you continued meditating - the grand claims for TM or the sidhis may prove to be wrong or right but so long as you enjoyed the practice and felt better afterward you could always rationalize that a worst case scenario was that you were getting some good rest.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

just two things, Lexico

1 - I think people wanted to believe, they thought that maybe it would work for them despite being a failure for others - again, it was a something-for-nothing mentality (no work needed to be done - people will pay almost anything for that)

2 - Pātañjali didn't say anything about walking on spiderwebs or flying - that was added by later commentaries (by people who most likely felt that they would look quite impressive "knowing" these miraculous things - consider how impressed we were with Mahesh, for example)

a careful reading of the yoga sūtras reveals, if you check the actual Sanskrit very closely, that Pātañjali doesn't really teach anything to do with flying/levitation

as close as we get is III 38 (in most versions) where he uses utkrānti which can be translated as "ascension" but has to be read in the sense of "go over" - the meaning, I feel, is that one goes over in the sense of not becoming entangled - we should have gone over Mahesh

in III 36 he is very clear that trying to "get" super-normal powers is in and of itself a distraction from spiritual progress (big surprise knowing how Mahesh felt about competition, eh?)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

OK, I see where the 'cobwebs' part was indeed Vyasa's commentary (or so it says in the edition I have) but re: flying, every translation I have seen reads something like this "by practicing samyama . . body and akasa . . and by concentrating on lightness of cotton wool passage through the sky can be secured". This sure sounds like it is referring to your physical body travelling through the sky, or why mention the lightness of cotton fiber? But I freely admit I am no expert whatsoever and I do not know sanskrit so I must rely on other's translation..

Are you suggesting an interpretation of Patanjali's sidhis in general which takes all the magic out of them? So would invisibility then amount to a sort of trick of becoming very quiet and unobtrusive and strength of an elephant is just hyperbole or metaphor or what exactly? I am intrigued by this idea but a little skeptical, if that is what you are driving at at all. However I am very attracted to the idea because I personally do not believe in supernormal powers in the sense of miracles (although I do believe ordinary powers of mind and body can be extended into a range we may not now understand scientifically but which will ultimately prove to be not magical at all - such as when really good judgement and intuition can appear to be psychic) and I like the idea that Patanjali wasn't really claiming they could be attained through Yoga at all.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

>>(although I do believe ordinary powers of mind and body can be extended into a range we may not now understand scientifically but which will ultimately prove to be not magical at all - such as when really good judgement and intuition can appear to be psychic)

This is interesting. I recall you lost no time in ridiculing me when I stated that I had had certain spontaneous paranormal experiences decades after abandoning TM, the TMO, and any form of New Age involvement.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

First let me say I am sorry for attacking you like that. I should have found a much kinder and better way of saying what I was trying to say then.

However, I thought I made it clear then that I do think the mind is incredibly subtle in its powers of intuition but that it still is using subtle clues that make perfect common sense once you analyze the situation - more or less like Sherlock Holmes - you later learn that the clues were there, not in some psychic dimension. People who grow to be very wise, very open and honest with themselves, and very skilled at listening to these out of the box clues sometimes make stunning connections but I see nothing terribly unusual about that. Perhaps we are looking at the same things and just explaining them a little differently.

Leaving your experience aside I must say that I run into new age types all the time who want to take every mundane intuitive connection they make and claim it is 'psychic'. They rebel at the idea that they just picked up some obvious clue out of the jumble of experience and prefer to think they git some sort of magic message.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Deborah, you ask why there wasn't a mass exodus when people realized the sidhis were a fraud. In my circle, we did not experience the sidhis as fraud. My sister learned the sidhis about a year before I did. Back then, Mr. Varma didn't call it "yogic flying". He called it "levitation." That sounds a little less proficient than full-scale flying. Also, he early said that it was in the "beginner stages" - hopping. But aside from all that, I heard my sister and her friends practicing it in the next room, with the door closed, and I could hear them "landing" loudly! They also giggled a lot. I figured to land that loudly, you had to lift off at least a little bit.

But the other "proof" of the sidhis to my sister, and to me, was what I saw in her outside of the meditation/flying room. Back then, Mr. Varma was saying that the point of learning the sidhis wasn't to have the superpower (i.e., to fly) but to "evolve" spiritually more rapidly. And I noticed that after my sister learned the sidhis, she had "support of nature." (to be continued....)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

That's an interesting interpretation Sudarsha. I wish my skills in this area were good enough to intelligently comment but they are not. Is this a widely accepted interpretation or do many still maintain he was speaking of real powers? I am wondering though if the powers really aren't powers at all why then he called them 'supernormal powers' and then also warned about them being a distraction?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I do not want to come across posing as some kind of expert/guru here. Definitely not. This is my understanding. I suspect that lots and lots of people remain convinced there are magical powers, otherwise weight loss gimmicks, etc., wouldn't sell. People believe in the absurd and in magic - otherwise lottery tickets wouldn't sell and a host of cons and scams would perish.

Strength of an elephant? Yes, you've picked a good one. Remember Sri Chinmoy? I guess it is a matter of what kind of strength you feel the elephant represents that (for yourself) would be worth having and, then of course, you'd also have to actually be sensible.

A lot of personal research has gone into Pātañjali and his yoga sūtras. The text is not of the "Vedic" period in any way, although some parts of the text are quite ancient. It appears to have been put together in the early to mid part of the first millennium (C.E.) and incorporates many ideas from both the Buddhist as well as Hindu traditions of meditation.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

" I suspect that lots and lots of people remain convinced there are magical powers, otherwise weight loss gimmicks, etc., wouldn't sell. People believe in the absurd and in magic - otherwise lottery tickets wouldn't sell and a host of cons and scams would perish."

Yes of course many are convinced there are powers but that is not my question exactly. I'd like to know how widely accepted your interpretation of Patanjali is - in other words do experts think Patanjali believed in powers or that he was being metaphorical, as you seem to suggest - which is quite a different thing than believing in powers yourself, although I am sure that for many how you interpret Patanjali might be influenced by your personal beliefs. Just because Patanjali may have believed in them does not make them true of course. He could be claiming such powers were possible and he could simply be wrong and the possibility that a father of modern yoga might believe that yoga could lead to unscientific results could be just as difficult for believers in him and in yoga to accept as the impossibility of powers is for believers in magic, so if we are looking for a motive to force an unlikely interpretation then that could go either way I think..

Strength of an elephant is a fairly straightforward statement, it COULD be a metaphor I suppose, and 'body through space' could be too, but on the face of it they do not appear to me to be metaphorical, not under a category called 'supernormal powers'. On the face of the metaphorical interpretation seems to be really forcing it to my mind.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

This is my understanding of the siddhis described in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Firstly, it is implied that samyama is practiced in describing each power, even though it is not mentioned in every verse. Samyama is not possible until one becomes perfected in dharana, dhyana and samadhi. It is the process of the mind traveling in lightning speed through the successive stages, at will, culminating in samadhi. The object is experienced through the successive stages of concentration and the mind re-emerges from samadhi with complete knowledge of the object (or phenomena). The subtle knowledge obtained, automatically gives one control over the physical reality. The powers are assumed to be real, not metaphorical. I don’t personally believe any of it, but I’m sure this is the common assumption about these things as believed by the majority of commentators on the sutras.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I'd like to know how widely accepted your interpretation of Patanjali is - in other words do experts think Patanjali believed in powers or that he was being metaphorical, as you seem to suggest - which is quite a different thing than believing in powers yourself, although I am sure that for many how you interpret Patanjali might be influenced by your personal beliefs.

First, my apologies for thinking I was responding to your question when, apparently, I was not. I should know better than to type when I'm tired. -- So: I think there are several camps into which people are going to fall. Obviously, there are those how have never heard of Pātañjali and his yoga sūtras; then those who have heard a little and suppose that he is talking about "real" magical powers; then those (in TM, for example) who are outright told or lead to believe that Pātañjali has actually written the directions for acquiring magic-like powers.

I do not know how many real scholars there are who are working with Pātañjali and his yoga sūtras. Some might think he has written about actual abilities that operate outside the boundaries of physical science, although I suspect most are more cautious.

As far as I am aware, my particular slant is relatively unknown/unpublished. Thus Pātañjali is largely dismissed by what very likely constitutes the vast majority. This is unfortunate (and Mahesh and the Aum Shinrikyo guy in Japan [ )] have largely contributed to this by making foolish claims that cannot be substantiated.

Yes, "strength of an elephant" is really open to lots of interpretation, this is why the whole set of sūtras (or at least the first three sections thereof) must be studied in order to see how Pātañjali has structured his teaching. Note that the very first word in sūtra 1 is atha, now.

One must study and absorb Pātañjali's teaching and then start. Now doesn't imply "now that you've fallen off the turnip truck, it's time to learn magic"! I know you know this; but apparently this is exactly how Mahesh approached/sold his inadequate understand to his more or less captive audience.

Personally, I think Pātañjali was making an effort to codify a complete system of learning. I do not think he applied the titles to the sections we have now, now do I think he divided his work into sections. It is one whole teaching.

As I think I have said here, somewhere, before, the third section is much more like the ko'an practise we find in Japanese Buddhism with quite similar results.

This leavs me/us with one unanswerable question: to what extent has the text been tampered with over time? Did someone actually add the business about "strength of an elephant" ? - I found that a few of the sūtras, especially in the section, were indecipherable. They could be read several ways but not consistently with the ways the first three sections can be read. There are also sūtras in the thrid and second sections that seem corrupt, as if someone somewhere added or remembered a word that didn't fit. For now, I'm happy to chalk that up to my own lack of scholarship. But this is relatively miner and, like everyone else, I can only do what can only do.

I sure hope that this helps some. Again, I apologize for not being clear and for not having better sense than to type when I'm tired.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I think you have it, David. This is the myth that would-be guru-types need to flog if they want a following.

I do not think that this is what Pātañjali himself is all about, but, as I said before, something-for-nothing sells like the proverbial hot cakes, hard work really sells very, very poorly.

An earlier comment (yours? someone's ) notes that when the dome-butt-bouncers put their collective attention (or whatever they thought they were doing) on some thing nothing changed. This ought to have dispelled the myth of Maheshism right then and there, but belief is a powerful thing with which it is almost entirely futile to pose any argument.

No matter what you tell people, for example about the futility of buying lottery tickets, only one thing is sure: no ticket, no chance.

I don't know if Mahesh specifically knew this, but the way he taught obviously depended upon this like wetness depends on water! He could have sold space heaters at the equator, never mind blankets.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

However I’m reluctant to accept this interpretation as unquestionable since it’s hard to believe that the many other translators lack the same insight or skill. I would be interested to know if this viewpoint is supported by any classical translations or commentaries.

This, David, is a very important point of view. I do not argue against it.

My perspective has been based solely upon the Sanskrit text by itself with no reference whatsoever to any other point of view. I drew my interpretation as closely as I possibly could directly from only the text itself, by itself.

It seems to me, as a consequence, that if Pātañjali wanted to preserve a text available only to those willing to do the work, then this would have been a very compelling way to do it - providing a basis for pie-in-the-sky imagination about magical powers, for those unwilling to do the work.

BUT, as you have so clearly and compelling indicated, your observation is supported by far more than my independent, isolated thought on the matter.

Still - and I am not here trying to provide any kind of counter argument, only an observation - if Pātañjali's text is about magical powers, where is the evidence that it is viable?

As far as I am aware (and this is very questionable), Pātañjali's yoga sūtras are not part of Guru Dev's lineage or tradition. Yet, I suspect that my explanation of those 4 sūtras (III 38-41) describes Guru Dev far better than it describes Fairfield's butt-bounces.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

A common interpretation of the sutras is that they are in condensed form, more as an outline for the topic of the day, so to speak and are meant to be expounded on by a qualified teacher. They weren’t meant to be full explanations in themselves for the casual reader.

The question arises that why did Patanjali include instructions for developing supernatural powers when later he says that they are just a distraction. The stock answer seems to be that they will arise automatically when the yogin becomes proficient in samadhi and one should be aware of the pitfalls. The mechanics of the individual practices are explained for clarity of cause and effect.

Isn’t the view you are taking somewhat akin to MMY’s idea that the purpose of the exercises is to learn to manipulate the mind in various ways to stabilize pure consciousness? I quite agree that MMY was shamelessly using the powers as bait.

Regarding the “willingness to do the work” - Many commentators and classical teachers express the view that even the lower stages of samadhi are very hard to obtain through meditation. The stages of dharana, dhyana and samadhi require a very austere lifestyle, as well as years of dedication and practice to perfect. This particular path has always been reserved for monastic types of practitioners. If this is the case, I’m not convinced that the mention of supernormal powers is meant as a red herring for those with superficial intentions, as I don’t see what purpose this would serve.

Unfortunately, the failure of the TM practitioners to manifest the siddhis doesn’t disprove their existence, certainly not to serious yoga practitioners, who must view TM as ridiculously superficial. I quite agree, where is the evidence that they exist apart from anecdotes and scriptural testimony?

Patanjali himself is a bit of a mysterious figure, or so I’ve heard. It isn’t clear that the sutras are the first hand recordings of one individual. Regarding the viability of the siddhis, maybe the sutras intend them to be taken seriously, but the author(s) was (were)deluded. There is a persistent myth that somehow the ancients had supernormal access to knowledge that is lost to us today. I think it is somewhat revealing that there are no accounts of the astronomical configuration of the solar system, the existence of galaxies, the cellular structure of living bodies, the endocrine system, the circulation of blood, the germ theory of disease, our genetic connection to all other forms of life, the list goes on and on . . .

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Deborah, re: a mass exodus when we found the Sidhis were a fraud. (Continued from my earlier comment)...It wasn't the rising up against gravity that convinced my sister and me of the efficacy of the TM-Sidhis. What I noticed was that after my sister learned the Sidhis, she did seem to have an uncanny "support of nature." Like she'd walk down the street and meet a stranger, and within a few months they were engaged. Or she'd immediately find a job. Or she'd quickly make friends in a new city. Or she would walk down the street, and generated so much good vibes or magic that strangers wanted to do favors for her. And she would glow.

Yes, I was mind-boggled by her new-found abilities. It was like Maharishi said - once you learned the TM-Sidhis, you did have support of nature.

It is only now, in writing this comment (30 years later!!!) that I realize that the stranger she met turned out to be a terrible choice for a husband. (And before him - after she became a Sidha - she was engaged to some other guy who was an even worse choice for a husband!) Also, as I review these memories, I recall that the friends she made so easily didn't turn out to be such great friends. She dropped a few, and another turned out to be strange and unstable. As far as finding a job, she did find a job right away, but guess what, she was fired from one or two jobs after she became a sidha. And just think, I never even realized all this until I was writing this up now! Yup, I saw what I wanted to see!

But moving forward, regarding my own experience once I learned the "flying," the TM SIdhis Administrators (teachers) were making it clear that we were only in the "first stages of flying", which was nothing to be sneezed at. And that when the consciousness of the earth had purified further through our practice, then we would start hovering and floating. (This is a clever premise because it can be neither proved nor disproved. I.e., "No one's flying yet." Well, that just proves that the atmosphere is not pure enough yet. Therefore we should be even more loyal to the TM movement to bring that day about.)

Deborah, even aside from all that poor logic, there was one other thing that made me believe that I had learned something valuable, to "fly" as per Maharishi and the ancient and venerable Patanjali (whom of course I had barely heard of until then, and so was vulnerable to Maharishi's interpretation). And that was the profundity of the experience, subjectively. As Lexico and Charlie both reported in their comments in here somewhere, the experience was INCREDIBLE. I, a confirmed atheist, was convinced I experienced God (the God described in the Abrahamic religions) the first time I successfully lifted off while practicing the "levitation."

Later, as I became more proficient, I was convinced that I was experiencing the God or the Absolute as described in the Hindu tradition. I have never taken cocaine, or heroin or LSD (heck, I've never even gotten drunk), but the experience of lifting off was like that, or much better than that. The experience, on good days, was one of "ecstasy" and "wild abandon". Of Bliss, and Timelessness, and The Peace That Passeth Understanding. Of God, and Wholeness, and Love and Infinity and Immortality and Omnipresence.....etc. etc. etc. And afterwards, sometimes my day would be filled with grace and holiness and freedom from suffering and right action and support of nature.....So I was quite content with the Sidhis. I thought I had surely gotten my money's worth.

When I stopped the Sidhis, by the way, I reverted to my usual humble human state. None of those sublime experiences were integrated into me. But that's another story....

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I am responding to the discussion on "strength of elephant," and how it would be hard to find an alternate interpretation on what that might mean. How "strength of an elephant" could hardly be a metaphor....

I have studied classical Indian Dance, and one of their dance movements and sayings is "she had the grace of an elephant." To me, an American, this sounds like the dancer is slow, ponderous, fat, off-balance, clumsy, plodding, staggering, etc. However, in Indian dance, the phrase is considered a great compliment. It means the dancer has the grace of, say, a ballerina.

This is just to point out how far removed we Westerners are in some ways from understanding exactly what it is an Indian/Hindu/yogi/guru etc. may be trying to convey. The context, the basic assumptions, the culture, etc. are so different in India vs. in the West. So, I say, not only may we be misguided in our assumption of what "strength of an elephant" means, but we have likely been sadly misled in many of our understandings of what Maharishi was imparting, and of the wool he pulled over our eyes, intentionally or inadvertently, for over 40 years.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

This is very good, Laurie. One of my teachers constantly laments that it is so typical of the Western reader that s/he imagines that s/he can read any book and understand it and therefore know what it is about.

It is decidedly NOT to Mahesh's credit that (and not just here) he probably knew better and yet went with the literal and colloquial meaning, "elephant". Still, had he been worth his salt as a teacher, he would have taught that there is more to know than what we imagine and more than what is literal and colloquial (common), and that there is a way to know it that is different from the way we imagine.

He would have taught that only then were we ready to learn something and only thereafter were we ready to move beyond TM2x20 (as it should have been taught and practised).

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Reading some of the comments here, the thought came to me is that maybe one of the reasons 'siddhis' and other seemingly supernormal powers are so difficult talk about and get our minds around is because they are so different from nearly every type of phenomena we have any experience of. We know that by following a certain sequence of events we can learn to ride a bike, but it's clear by following the yoga sutras of Maharishi we can't learn to fly. Yet there have been well-documentated cases throught-out history of individuals doing this and even more wonderous things. I believe these things are real, but they cannot be duplicated at will, as Maharishi tried to do. The same thing is true of psychic phenomena; people have been proven to have such experiences as precognition, but when scientists try to deliberately replicate these experiences, under controlled conditions they can't. I believe that the problem isn't that these experiences aren't real, but when you try to force them into being, you just can't. It's similar to the way 'trying' to meditate makes the meditative state difficult if not impossible to achieve.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thanks for explaining all that. What you gained was surely worthwhile, although I imagine those experiences could be had following another yogic or religious discipline, at lower cost. But it does sound as if you did indeed learn to fly, metaphorically speaking. Maybe MMY marketed them wrong? If he marketed them as a means of spiritual ecstasy, he would have had enough customers without subjecting himself and the TMO to justifiable accusations of fraud. (Of course, there were the drawbacks, as seen in the Kropinski case.) I am really curious though as to why newcomers, not in the TMO, signed up for yogic flying or even levitation, after it was shown that it did not occur and likely would not occur for them. Why did you stop doing them, if you had such a positive result? if you had continued, perhaps in time they would have become integrated.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I am quite doubtful that there are 'well documented' cases of flying or of any other powers for that matter. There are certainly a number of references to levitation and probably some of these at least sound as if they were somehow documented or proven but usually under any kind of scrutiny it becomes clear they were not. There is and always has been a tendency for people to want to believe in magic, for so many reasons. There are also many cases of outright fraud and deception. There are stories of Maharishi himself flying and doing all sorts of things but as former followers it seems so obvious to us now that these reports were from blissed out and deluded believers - no doubt there have been unquestioning and over-enthusiastic followers down through time as well who wanted to spread the power and fame of their master and their faith. Yes, there is powerful motivation both for the believer to believe and also for the skeptic to doubt but until we can verify something so extraordinary we are going to have to reply on the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, if there was any potency in what Mahesh was using to make money for his family, we'd have seen some kind of evidence (other than the poverty of his students).

One of the participants from one of the early initiator training courses in India told me that Mahesh had them do some sort of breathing and then hop like frogs. (No, no foam, just the good, hard, flat earth of Rishikesh.)

He said that Mahesh laughed himself silly.

Probably, they were doing "bellows breathing". Not something recommended over long periods of time.

We know the story Connie Larson told: the financial officer told Mahesh he was broke, had spend all his money on the International Staff. Next morning Mahesh announced that Pātañjali had come to him in the night and told him to teach the siddhis (which then Mahesh mis-spelt as "sidhi" so he could copyright it).

Shabbier and shabbier.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, pretty shabby. What's more, from my admittedly limited understanding, levitation and other 'siddhis' weren't performed in antiquity in order to gain enlightenment or 'cosmic consciousness' or whatever; they were the product of these things, so Maharishi may have had it completely backwards. Which brings to mind the old saying that the reason angels (and the saints) were able to fly is because they took themselves lightly.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

light as dandelion fluff

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Lexico, I think it was you who mentioned the electric meter that was in the meditation hall. We were instructed to use our sidhis technique to make the hand on the meter move backwards (or something like that). 500 of us "sidhas." After a while they stopped the experiment. Obviously our "sidhis-powers" didn't work, or they would have continued the experiment, and reported it. I was there too! Glad to know there's someone reading TM-Free who shared this experience with me. Also, remember they said, "Don't tell anyone we're doing this!" Also, they made us guinea pigs without informed consent. Shameful. I was in Fairfield on the Creating Coherence Course from Sept. 1979 through March 1981. Were you in Fairfield then? Maybe we can share some other memories!

Deborah 1900, re: your questions about the sidhis: Many people who learned the sidhis reported great benefit in their daily life. The actual accomplishment of lifting off (or failure to lift off the ground) was minimized. So if I were a non-TMer, and I read the testimonials of the bliss and support of nature etc., I would want to start, even though there was no actual soaring through the skies.

Also, you say if I had kept at the Sidhis, maybe the results would have been stabilized. That's Maharishi's contention. But that's just his take on the way brains work. People who've taken LSD numerous times and have seen God during their "trips" didn't find that the experience was eventually stabilized outside of tripping. People who dance themselves into a blissful trance don't stabilize the bliss. Also, when I look at the photos and videos of various sidhas (like the "Mother Divine" contingent at some fancy TM event -- photos appear on a recent article on TM-Free posted by Mike D.), they don't even look happy. No, I have no proof that "stabilization" of the bliss and support of nature come from doing the sidhis. My guess is the sidhis were a little more like cocaine - blissful as long as you were on it. As soon as I stopped, I went into "withdrawal." No more bliss, and a feeling of absolute horror.

Since Mahesh was the one who reinvented or rediscovered or whatever the Patanjali sidhis, he didn't even have the opportunity of seeing the results of the sidhis in people. So his contention that it would integrate was simply speculation. It was akin to his averring that bringing ones mind into a quiet state through TM was akin to dipping a cloth in dye and then putting the cloth in the sun- that eventually the dye would stick. It is actually an insipid analogy, as there is nothing in common between a piece of cloth and a human brain. For many people, as reported here on TM-Free, "after a while TM just stopped 'working.' "

As for why I stopped, unfortunately, when I did the sidhis, not only did the bliss get activated, but so did the entire Mahesh belief system. I was more blissful, but I was also not of this world; I was not quite in touch.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I'm chuckling a bit, Laurie, because although you are certainly right about the "dipping the cloth" image, one thing did tend to stick and sort of stabilize: that was, of course, Mahesh's mind-set, we were dipped in it, using the dye-fastener of TM. Something stuck. Even now, 30 something years post-TM, many of Mahesh's ideas pop up and account for some experience. At least until I give it more thought.

But, of course, Mahesh was right about some things. There's some psychological opinion or something from some "expert" that says most people will believe a big lie before they will believe a small one. Mahesh was clever, he mixed a lot of small lies in with some truths and one or two whoppers (big lies, not fast food).

The "experiment" with trying to get the clock to change time using your 'sidhi' magical thinking is very interesting on many levels. When Lexico (or whoever) first mentioned it, I didn't give it too much thought. But on a bit more reflection, it should have right then and there demonstrated for everyone that this 'sidhi' business, like the so-called yagyas, was, to use a very technical term, complete and utter balderdash.

But, by then, I guess everyone had done so much dipping that the "stabilized" mind-set over-road any sense of actually being able to employ even a little critical thinking.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

reply to Laurie: " I was in Fairfield on the Creating Coherence Course from Sept. 1979 through March 1981.Were you in Fairfield then? " Yes, I was indeed living in Fairfield at that time and was in the dome daily.

About the experience: I felt a big blast of energy and my body would just explode off the foam. I also felt blissed and full of something I thought at the time was the life-force. I could not sit in full lotus for the whole time so I had the added 'advantage' that my legs hung freely below me and thus they could push off and I would shoot up and out a great distance but there was no magic going on that propelled me, it was me doing it but I felt a very strong urge to do it. Being young, athletic, and full of belief I went about this with great enthusiasm. I now realize that armed with such belief and expectation you can 'psyche yourself up' to think you are experiencing all sorts of things - essentially you get more or less what you expect - the experience seems to rise to the level of expectation, maybe not exactly, but closely, and if you can skillfully mix some element of truth into the mix as M did it can become very difficult to unravel the delusion. Just look at the people who come to tent revivals and fall into ecstatic trances - writhing, speaking-in-tongues, getting healed, and swearing to god that they were in the 'holy spirit' and had a life-changing experience and often when the 'preacher' is an admitted fraud.

Is it REAL? I dunno if there is any real value in this but I'm pretty sure it wasn't supernormal. People DO NOT levitate - that much seems clear and I suspect we got about the same level of success in other TM related things as we did there. As for the personal experiences of healing and bliss and so on, I seriously think this is primarily placebo/mood-making but there may be some level of reality in it since self-belief is probably a powerful thing, but the downside of course is that taking on FALSE ideas will lead to all sorts of life-damaging mistakes - like devoting your life to bouncing on your ass, refusing medical treatment, avoiding a 'normal' job, among a thousand other half-cocked ideas I ran with.

If there is anything remarkable in all of this I think it is in the mind's ability to create n almost fully realized but ultimately ersatz version of the reality it aims to experience - this is really quite remarkable, so much so that those affected by it cannot believe it! They find it easier to believe they are flying than to believe they could be fooled by their own mind. Even IF you are willing to honestly examine the situation it is almost impossible to see how it works - the brain/mind is is amazing, so subtle, that it doesn't fit the mechanistic paradigm and produces some amazing, non-intuitive phenomena makes us THINK it is magic.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi Lexico! Here are a few of my memories from Fairfield Sept. 1979-March 1981. Do you remember any of them? (Does anyone else?)

Remember when Bevan said that if we left Fairfield we would be "personally responsible for World War III"? Remember when Bevan said, "So let's not see any more of those signs us, 'All things considered, wouldn't you rather be in Philadelphia' "? Remember the the November 1979 hostage crisis in Iraq? Iran? And Bevan or somebody saying, "Let's make sure everyone attends all the flying programs, so that EVERYONE (meaning the hostages) have a Happy Thanksgiving"? Remember around 1980 when Maharishi said we should all come to India to learn about Indian herbs (the beginning of the MAV businesses)? I remember asking myself if I should go - I didn't particularly want to go to India, leave behind my job, friends, dorm, spend the $2,000, get dysentary, listen to boring lectures, be isolated in a hotel, etc. I felt conflicted , so I asked a friend for advise (actually I asked a total stranger on the path from the flying hall, but after all, we were all brothers & sisters and in this together), and her saying, "Well, are you physically in good health? Do you have the money? If 'yes,' then there's no question. Maharishi said this is what we should do." (I don't remember thinking back then, "A quick $100,00 to be made by the movement." Actually, I think they paid for some people who were broke).

Remember the inauguration of the digging of the men's dome in the freezing cold? Remember them selling little boxes of dirt from the excavation site for $5 to raise money for the construction of the dome? (Like holy land!) Remember Maharishi coming to Fairfield in maybe early 1981,watching us "fly" and saying in disgust and dismay "What's all this noise? (We were screaming, flailing - it sounded like an orgy or a mental hospital). "From now on, no noise!" said Maharishi.

Remember some stupid banquet we had, and some printing press in the movement had printed stupid white paper placements with gold embossment on it for the occasion, and the M.C. saying sort of wryly, "And I hope you are all enjoying your Age of Enlightenment placemats"? Remember a woman in my dorm (I have forgotten her name), went home to visit her parents and never returned. We got newspaper articles that she had been deprogrammed. That her parents said she was now "touring the country." (We assumed so that we TMers could not track her down.) I actually wrote her 2 letters from Fairfield - one encouraging her to return to Fairfield, and one telling her TM was a cult, and we were all brainwashed!!!

Remember the "Ministers" appearing in maybe early 1981. They were women in saris, somehow I remember yellow/gold saris (American women). They said in utmost sincerity, , "And I'm sure we all want to rise up to the next level of whatever Maharishi has made available to us." (I remember that I had worked so hard and had spent so much money to be a big shot in the movement, an initiator. And then all of a sudden I was a nobody again, when the ""TM-Sidhis Program" was announced, and I had to go to more time and expensive and a more intense and lengthier program to be a "sidha", and exalted "Governor of the Age of Enlightenment" (or was it an "Executive Governor of the Age of Enlightenment"? I never could figure out exactly which was which. Anyone remember?). Did I really want to go through all that again, more money, a more intense program that took up even more time, got me in deeper into the movement, and even made me wear saris? Yuk.

Enough memories for now! Maybe more later.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Laurie I wish I could say I remember most of that but I don't, probably because my stay in Fairfiled during that period was only about 3 mos. in the summer of 1980. I came back in a few years and lived there for about two years in the early to mid-eighties. I was mentally out of the movement by then but my girlfriend was gung ho so I went along.

All I remember from the 1980 stint was some sidhas from an oil brokerage firm (Amerex?) coming to town to recruit for some new positions. I got an interview but didn't make the cut. I did get a job with another sidha firm in the northeast and my new boss asked me to put up some posters in the dome recruiting for some positions he had open and Bevan caught me putting up the posters! He was none too happy and asked me to take them down right away but he didn't get ugly about it.

I had several stints in Fairfield either living there or else taking courses. There was Phase I of TTC in 75. An ATC in 76 and then I got the first part of the sidhis there in the summer of 77.

Funny story: That course in 77 was just going to be another ATC but about a week or so before the course started we were told to bring extra money ($450 extra) because we would be getting the sidhis!! This was totally unexpected and I was ecstatic. After about five or six weeks of rounding they even delivered a load of foam into the lower level of the frat we were staying in. We got so excited!! Then we were told that to get the sidhis you had to have earned your entire course fee with ATR credit (even the extra $450), but almost none of us had, in fact it was standard practice back then to give your ATR credit to the full time teachers in your local center, so although I had earned enough by teaching I still did not qualify. You also had to have initiated at least 200 people. I was close enough and said I had but I really didn't know for sure. I can't remember the exact details of the convoluted arrangement we eventually got but basically unless Maharishi thought you were really out there teaching full time he wanted you to pay the 'citizen' rate which amounted to an additional $800. After much complaining we were at last told that we could promise to pay the extra money later in the form of some kind of pledge to earn ATR credit and if we later didn't earn it we would have to pay the $800 in cash but for now we would be able to 'fly now and pay later' (direct quote from our course director). Yay, the room erupted with joy.

But then we we were only taught the 'first block' of sidhis and no flying (about 7 sutras). We waited and waited and finally we asked our administrator Rindy Schwartz if we would be flying and she said no, we had gotten all we were going to get! Naturally there was intense dissapointment and even some outrage. Some of the guys on the course decided to formally petition Maharishi to get the flying and when Rindy got wind of this plan she went ballistic! She gave us a lesson in taking whatever the master was giving and took names of the instigators and even interviewed each of us asking if we had supported this plan! I was able to say 'no' because I hadn't really ever formally expressed an opinion but really I had supported the idea.

I left the course with my stinking seven sutras but I don't think they ever asked me for the $800 which I guess I was supposed to volunteer? Then in 78 I finished off the sidhis on a course in Israel of all places.

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