Monday, December 13, 2010

Who Are These People? The Backgrounds of David Lynch's "Researchers"

Today's events sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation, which I've dubbed "Billionaires for TM," begin at 11 am today, Eastern time, with a conference that was announced in this press release. A sales pitch offering the Transcendental Meditation program as yet another form of panacea, this time, as a treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, can be expected.

As is standard practice for promoters of Maharishi-branded products, full disclosure of the backgrounds, and prior associations with the TM program, of the people who'll be present and/or presenting at this conference seldom occurs. While it may appear that the medical doctors and other individuals may be independently employed, many have long been closely associated with the TM organization.

You can't keep track of them all without a scorecard, so I've done a bit of digging and made one, of sorts.  If you happen to be a reporter unlucky enough to have to cover this thing, you can download a printable copy of the list below, from here.

As I wrote in my last posting here, the promoters of TM today generally tend to come from a rather narrow demographic, recruited while relatively young, and during a particular period, the late '60's and early-mid 70's, when recruitment into TM was supported by the influence of American popular culture. Likewise, there's a striking sameness among the fourteen individuals involved with this conference. Only two of them are clearly younger than 50 years old. Among those whose date of initiation into the TM program can be identified, they were all initiated between the years 1970 and 1975, except for one younger person initiated last year.

My added details about the conference participants appear in italic below. Names and initial descriptions that are not highlighted are from the original David Lynch Foundation press release announcing today's conference.
  • Clint Eastwood
Film actor, director, producer. 80 years old. Initiated into the Transcendental Meditation program about 1970. No demonstrated qualifications to evaluate a treatment for PTSD.

  • David Lynch
American filmmaker, aged 64. Initiated into the Transcendental Meditation program on July 1, 1973. No demonstrated qualifications to evaluate a treatment for PTSD.

  • Martin Scorsese
American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. 68 years old. TM initiation date unknown (presumably mid-70’s or earlier). No demonstrated qualifications to evaluate a treatment for PTSD.
  • Russell Brand
English comedian, actor. 35 years old. Initiated into the Transcendental Meditation program in 2009. No demonstrated qualifications to evaluate a treatment for PTSD.

  • Colonel Brian M. Rees, M.D., M.P.H., command surgeon, 63d Regional Support Command, with 34 years of commissioned military service, who recently completed his fourth deployment in Afghanistan. Col. Rees serves as co-chair of Operation Warrior Wellness.
Rees is a teacher of TM and has been closely associated with the Transcendental Meditation organization for over twenty years. He wrote a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association supporting Maharishi Ayur-Veda products in 1989, and was later identified as the director of the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Medical Center in Pacific Palisades, California. He was a candidate for U.S. Senator from California in 1998 and 2000 under the banner of the TM organization’s “Natural Law Party.”

Rees is the author of a rather peculiar, 2007 US Army War College masters degree research paper, “The Application of Strategic Stress Management in Winning the Peace.” While the title suggests the subject is “stress management,” much of the paper assumes the validity of the so-called “Maharishi Effect” - the unsubstantiated, and frankly, silly assertion that groups of people practicing certain parts of the Transcendental Meditation program that generally involve bouncing on foam rubber will bring peace and “invincibility” to countries that establish and pay for such groups. In 1997, Evan Fales and Barry Markovsky at the University of Iowa concluded that this “theory does not pass minimal criteria of meaningfulness and logical integrity.”

Rees is named as one of the directors of the “Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS)” at “The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management,” one part of the organization that teaches TM. The main function of CAMS appears to be the promotion of the “Maharishi Effect” non-theory, renamed “Invincible Defense Technology,” as valid military doctrine of some sort.

  • Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., senior researcher in psychiatry and psychobiology for 20 years at the National Institute of Mental Health; clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, who conducted research on TM and Iraq veterans with PTSD.
Evidence of Rosenthal’s direct participation in the TM program, if any, remains undisclosed. He has been involved with at least one previous David Lynch Foundation sponsored conference, promoting TM as an aid for students with ADHD. He’s better known for coining the term, “seasonal affective disorder.” His research on Iraq veterans with PTSD is “under review” and hasn’t yet been published.

  • John Hagelin, Ph.D., Harvard-trained quantum physicist who has led an international scientific investigation over the past 25 years into the applications of Transcendental Meditation for health and education; president of the David Lynch Foundation.
While Hagelin is indeed a physicist, his qualifications to evaluate any treatment or therapy for PTSD have not been demonstrated. Hagelin has been involved with the TM organization for decades, and has run for the United States Presidency multiple times as the Natural Law Party candidate. He’s currently known, inside the organization, as the “Raja of America,” coronated on November 20, 2007.

  • James Krag, M.D., recent president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia and currently clinic psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration.
Krag is a former member of the Board of Advisors of the David Lynch Foundation, and an advisor to the Committee for Stress-Free Schools, a TM program affiliated group established with the DLF. He was a candidate for Presidential elector in Virginia, associated with the Natural Law Party, in 2000. He also participated in the 2003 inauguration of a TM organization called “The US Peace Government,“ headed by John Hagelin, a successor organization to the Natural Law Party. Krag issued a statement at the time which included this: “The US Peace Government will help guide human evolution by aligning with Nature’s Intelligence. We will use the collective creative intelligence of thoughtful Americans to guide the conscious growth of this country.”

  • Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist and published researcher on the effects of TM on PTSD and ADHD.
Grosswald is a research faculty member at the TM movement’s Maharishi University of Management. She was a candidate for U.S. Congress from Virginia in 1996 and 1998, and was treasurer of the Natural Law Party of Virginia at its closing in 2004. Grosswald also participated in the 2003 inauguration of “The US Peace Government.” Grosswald has received a “Doctorate in World Peace Studies” from Maharishi European Research University, which reportedly, as much as it ever physically existed, once consisted of a desk in a TM movement owned hotel in Switzerland. According to a self-described long-term meditator, the MERU “DWP” degree was “an award from Maharishi to those who studied with him for over forty years.”

  • Jerry Yellin, A P-51 pilot in WWII who flew 19 missions over Japan, and was victimized by PTSD for 25 years before learning to meditate in 1975. Mr. Yellin is a member of the Military Writers Society of America; author of three award-winning books, and honorary board member of the Iwo Jima Association of America. Jerry serves as co-chair of Operation Warrior Wellness.
Yellin’s personal story and endorsement of the TM program appear at the Transcendental Meditation Blog. That is, however, no substitute for independent scientific research on the effectiveness of the technique, particularly with respect to PTSD.

  • Ed Schloeman, Vietnam vet

  • Dan Burks, Vietnam vet
Burks, aged 63, is Instructor of Exercise and Sport Science at the TM movement’s Maharishi University of Management, and resides in Fairfield, Iowa.

  • Lt. Col. Brenda Marlinbanks, Iraq vet

  • David George, Iraq vet

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