We were quite happy (about 6 months ago) to receive an advance copy of Geoff Gilpin's The Maharishi Effect to review for this blog. Unfortunately (and this may explain a lot to y'all), we only read books when we are flying on jet planes to distant locales, and we only get to fly a few times a year.
But since we flew to California for Thanksgiving this year, we finally had a chance to read the damn book. We came away quite happy to have shared a pleasant journey with a former/maybe-about-to-return adherent of the TM™ movement at their dilapidated little utopia known as Fairfield, Iowa.
It's basically the tale of an ex-TM™er exploring the questions he left behind when he left the movement. To do so, he moves back to Fairfield, meeting old friends who have realized varying degrees of success in their lives. Geoff is not at all unsympathetic to TM™ and it's leader, the Maharishi. In fact, he's rather leaning on their side for most of the book. But he does so with an unflinching eye for the decay (both physical and ideological) that has befallen the org in the time since he left, something a Kool-Aid drinking TM™er would never think of doing.
As to whether he gets his questions answered, that's hard to say. For a while we were worried Geoff was going to start drinking the Kool-Aid himself again, but his somewhat suffering wife seems to be just the anchor he needs to get in, figure it out and get out:
[Geoff] said, "But it seemed as real as anything. I had a direct experience of consciousness jumping from person to person through walls."Smart man, smart woman. If you guys ever hit a rough patch, hit me up by email, Sarah.
"That's what you believed at the time, You all took it for granted that things like that happen. You were expecting it and you got what you expected..." [Sarah said]
"I had it again when I was meditating... It was the deepest meditation I've had in ages. I don't know why it's better with the group..."
"Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy. A placebo."
I gave Sarah a big grin. "That's why I married you..."
Finally, at the end of the book Geoff breaks out the debunking, which is really nothing more than the application of common sense. All in all it's a sweet little read that moves quickly, doesn't bore, and provides a good insider's view of what goes on in Fairfield, and by extension, that mad little old coot's head. There are a few distracting bits about Geoff's work as a software writer/programmer, including some obvious product placement. He also kind of skips much discussion of the Madharishi's "peace palace" program, but we'll give it four out of five turbans anyway, mostly for its value as a source of information about the history of the TM™ movement and how it (doesn't quite) work today in Fairfield.