Wednesday, March 13, 2013

All Publicity is Good Publicity - Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation

TM Free Blog sends a big “Thank You!!” to Claire Hoffman and John Horgan for critiquing TM in high profile publications!  Merci! Gracias! Grazie! 

Thanks to Hoffman and Horgan, the New York Times Magazine and Scientific American commented on the Transcendental Meditation Movement. Comments for the online articles expose True Believers’ mentality, further emphasizing the writers’ points. 

Despite Maharishi’s teaching that “All Publicity is Good Publicity” to assuage followers’ concerns when media questioned the giggling guru or his World Plan, some True Believers rabidly defend their organization and guru at every hint of criticism. I can't help but wonder what Maharishi would say about this recent TM publicity.

In the February 22, 2013 New York Times Magazine, Claire Hoffman’s “David Lynch is Back... as a Guru of Transcendental Meditation” describes today’s celebrity studded world of Transcendental Meditation (TM) recruitment.

Avoiding potential charges of defamation, Hoffman never writes “Beware, TM is a manipulative destructive cult justified by dubious pseudo-science.” Nor does she claim “TM hopes to garnish increasing numbers through celebrity star appeal, just as the Beatles and others seduced new recruits in the 1960s.”

Hoffman, who was raised with TM, instead artfully dodges directly stating the obvious by painting scenes familiar to anyone who has lived within the TM Movement. One of my current (non TM history) friends asked me after reading the article, “So, what’s the article’s point?”

I responded, “The reader must read between the lines and draw conclusions from her stories. Hoffman cannot print that the organization is high profit cult that seduces people by promising a Golden Egg of happiness. The organization is worth billions of dollars and could sue.”

Hoffman’s article opens with the scene of an advanced TM meeting at Lynch’s compound. Lynn Kaplan, a TM Initiator for decades, leads the gathered group. As an aside, Lynn Kaplan and her ex-husband, Earl were best friends with my ex-husband and me in the early 1980s. Lynn’s ex-husband, Earl Kaplan, later left TM after having donated over $150 million to Maharishi’s schemes. Earl speaks candidly about his disillusionment with the giggling guru when interviewed in the carefully constructed documentary, "David Wants to Fly".

Ms. Hoffman quotes various celebrities describing perceived TM  benefits, as if the only way to obtain peace of mind is through a meditation taught through several days of trance-induction. Hoffman details Lynch’s hyper-commitment to spreading TM after he attended the so-called “Millionaire’s Course.” For the sum of one million dollars per attendee, Maharishi promised enlightenment to each participant and garnered their lifelong commitment to promote TM. Most graduates of the Millionaire’s course became TM Rajas with golden colored cardboard crowns, similar to those given away at Burger King hamburger restaurants. Rather than becoming a Raja, Lynch instead received an honorary PhD from Maharishi University.

After his millionaire’s course, Lynch established the David Lynch Foundation to fundraise and spread TM to students, inner-city youth, and veterans with PTSD. The Lynch foundation targets celebrities for fundraising appeal, such as the 2009 "Change Begins Within" Concert which featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Michael Love and others telling stories of their time with Maharishi in Rishikesh India 1968. 

Hoffman’s essay includes a grid of today’s TM celebrity front runners, such as Russell Brand, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz, Howard Stern, Jerry Seinfeld and others. Longtime TM Initiator-Governor Bobby Roth, currently employed by David Lynch’s foundation, carefully cultivates celebrity TMers.  Like high profile celebrities in other cult-like groups, TM celebrities are sheltered from the dysfunctions, demands, psychosis and poverty experienced by many rank and file TM devotees.

On March 4, 2013 John Horgan pubished for his Scientific American “Cross-Check” blog “Do All Cults, Like All Psychotherapies, Exploit the Placebo Effect?” referring to Hoffman’s article, above.

Horgan offers a short discussion of the placebo effect, followed by an explanation of destructive cults.  He closes his essay “The more you believe in the uniquely transformative power of your cult, the more you get out of it. The only price you have to pay is your rationality.”

A few days later, on March 8, Horgan offered another essay critiquing TM’s research, in response to the True Believer comments on his first TM expose’ post, “Research on TM and Other Forms of Meditation Stinks”.

Horgan avoids insulting his readers with a definition of the scientific method and randomized trials which define good research (none of which have been used in TM studies). Horgan does, however, pointedly reference that all forms of meditation have been shown to be beneficial at times. He points out that meditation has been linked to “adverse side effects, too, including suggestibility, neuroticism, depression, suicidal impulses, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, psychosis and dysphoria. In an implicit reference to the cultish context within which meditation is often taught, Andresen added that meditators may become vulnerable to “manipulation and control by others,” including “unscrupulous or delusional teachers.”

Horgan concludes, “A similar picture emerges from the 2007 peer-reviewed report “Meditation practices for health: state of the research,” by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The report analyzed 813 studies of meditation and concluded that most were of “poor quality.” The report stated: “Many uncertainties surround the practice of meditation. Scientific research on meditation practices does not appear to have a common theoretical perspective and is characterized by poor methodological quality. Firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence.... If your particular form of meditation makes you feel good, do it! But don’t kid yourself that its medical benefits have been scientifically proven.”

TM-Free moderators bow our hats to Hoffman and Horgan for their excellent essays!

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