I've been cleaning out my files, and I came upon notes from my conversation with an exit counselor back in 1987. I hope you will enjoy reading some of his comments:
"Of all the groups I have dealt with, some of the most severe casualties have been in TM. This is in direct contradiction to TM publicity. Meditation techniques are not appropriate for everyone, because some people have difficulty distinguishing between the inner content and outer content of their minds. Such people can go into a psychotic state from doing meditation, because these techniques loosen boundaries between the conscious and the unconscious. For the average person, this is a pleasure, because most people have too many boundaries there. But for a minority of people, it is dangerous to have the boundary more porous."
[Editor's comment: When I saw the film "David Wants to Fly," I had the good fortune to find Dr. Herbert Benson, author of "The Relaxation Response"
sitting right behind me! I introduced myself to him, and he told me a
few stories. Included was, "I observed the course in Fuiggi, Italy.
Since I am an M.D., when I and course participants got off the plane in
the U.S., I did sign a bunch of them straight into mental hospitals."]
"So it was normal for people in TM to "freak out" -- to have highs, lows, get emotional."
[Editor's comment: In the TM world, careening highs and lows were considered normal, even positive. It was called unstressing, and we were told that it meant the person was throwing off old stress.]
I suggested to the exit counselor that TM had a special hook for the average Westerner because it backs up its beliefs with appeals to science. He replied, "Scientology also bombards people with statistics."
"If you have a busy, multidimensional life, to sit down for 20 minutes is okay. But if meditation becomes a goal in itself, it's bad. It's like fasting. The first time you do it, it feels good, healing. But if you continue to fast, it turns on itself. The mind is similar - it needs information and stimulation. Without outside stimulation, it stimulates itself. Thus, inner material comes out. The person becomes increasingly swallowed up in their inner world, and outside decisions and the outer world become more difficult."
"I feel TM has a callous view of people. I've treated one of Maharishi's lovers. She was seduced and abandoned by Mahesh. She became psychotic. He promised he would marry her; then she was told, "You're being sent to Switzerland."
[Editor's comment: This strikes me as Mahesh being callous, not the TM organization. But I believe he set the tone, and did make policy for the TMO that was callous.]
"Dr. Herbert Benson's book 'The Relaxation Response' demonstrates that one can create TM-like results without TM. By any autohypnosis technique, one can do this. TM's marketing insisted that TM was distinct."
"True scientific research shows that anyone can have a TM-like response. Almost all psychologists discredit TM research as self-serving and flawed. For instance, the research on reduced crime is totally without controls, confounding factors, etc. That research is extremely specious. All TM research is designed to hook people in. The TMO allows scientific proofs but not scientific critiques. When you were in TM, you were only exposed to the research that they wanted you to see."
[Editor's comment: Is TM research still in disrepute? I think much less so. It's being taught in some public schools and veterans' organizations. And I believe the Surgeon General recently had an amiable discussion with a leading TM proponent.]
Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.