Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Maharishi Effect

File under: Book Review

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."

"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..."
Smart man, smart woman. If you guys ever hit a rough patch, hit me up by email, Sarah.

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.

13 Comments:

At 12/01/2006 4:35 AM, Blogger sattvicwarrior said...

great blog. thanks for sharing:)

 
At 12/01/2006 11:16 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

My man Jody is far more honest that She She will ever be and has a better heart.

 
At 12/01/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Considering the significant amount of new construction in Fairfield, both completed and ongoing, I find it odd that you would use the word 'dilapidated'. There are still some of the crummy Parson's College buildings in use on the MUM campus, but they are slowly but steadily being torn down and replaced.

As for Fairfield itself, it has matured into a lively, creative, spiritually eclectic community. It's a wonderful place to live. Mother Earth News called it one of the "12 Great Places You've Never Heard Of", and it also made the State of Iowa's "Great Places" list.

http://tinyurl.com/y23edn

http://www.iowagreatplaces.gov/

 
At 12/01/2006 2:31 PM, Blogger jody said...

Considering the significant amount of new construction in Fairfield, both completed and ongoing, I find it odd that you would use the word 'dilapidated'.

Considering the fact that all the new construction is utterly unnecessary and only the result of the Madharishi's obsessive-compulsive disorder, I don't think it goes very far in removing the dilapidation, as it is purely the result of the wacky old coot's dilapidated mind.

 
At 12/01/2006 4:32 PM, Anonymous Iowa Corn said...

Yeah if you think Fairfield is dilapidated, you should check out the new construction like "Prince Alex's" (brother of Tom Stanley, the TM-Raja of Denver) cross between a big Taco Bell and a mid-priced southwestern US theme hotel; it's on the outskirts of town. If tacky = dilapidated, this place would have been condemned on completion.

But really it's a typical trust fund baby creation.

And the TMO is filled with such trust-fund babies with nothing better to do than build faux Sthapatya Veda residences and live off Fairfield's "the Sedona of Iowa" ambiance.

And of course throw money at the latest fauxvatar passing through town.

Alex Stanley has posted the pictures and links on the Fairfield-Life newsgroup for those interested, posted in his name. It's worth the smile!

 
At 12/01/2006 8:55 PM, Blogger Liberated Fred said...

Iowa Corn I think your panties are in a jealous bunch, now aren't they? Little pickles, cootchie-coo.

 
At 12/02/2006 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at this scene with a combination of amusement and disgust. Although the disgust comes mostly from the Prince's underwear shots from a gay web site which were passed around town. They were from a manhunt.net site under the name "alex52556" which have since been removed. The names still there.

Of course he could be an underwear model on the side for all we know.

You have to wonder if his beard, uh, wife knows he was hooking up online behind her back!

Those darn princes who wanna be queens!

 
At 12/02/2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Wow! I had no idea I had such a bitter, unhappy, and envious following.

 
At 12/02/2006 12:21 PM, Blogger CHUCK said...

Libated Fred said, "Iowa Corn I think your panties are in a jealous bunch, now aren't they? Little pickles, cootchie-coo."

I can't understand what you're saying Fred. Maybe it's time you took another Sterling Men's Weekend.

From what we've heard about She She, I can see why he might like you.

 
At 12/03/2006 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An old friend of mine (an ex-TM teacher) lives in Fairfield and does not attend the TM functions (at their request, because he openly hosted, Oh No!, other gurus at his home when they passed through Fairfield. He enjoys the drama when they go through town. He still thinks TM is good, however. He recently told me that among those living there, many of the old-time TM teachers have turned to drugs and alcohol. He said that many are addicted to pain killers or are drunkards. He told me this very matter of factly, like it was normal in any community in the US to have a large number of strung out people, but I found it very strange, given MMY's teachings.

I know that when I visited him in Fairfield a few years ago and went to see some Guru-passing-through type who was a "healer" of some kind, there was a huge group of TMers who were active in the domes, visiting the same guy, saying "shhh don't say you saw me here"..... Many many many of them had cancer and other horrible diseases like debilitating arthritis. Most of them were between 25-50 years old. The "healer", who happened to be from India, said he had never seen so much disease in such a small, condensed population in his life.

What gives with the TM "research?" Is it all faked or what?

I practiced TM for awhile and don't think it harmed me. But what happened to all those people in Fairfield Iowa? And what in the world is this about Princes and Rajas???

 
At 12/03/2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Alex said...

And what in the world is this about Princes and Rajas

The leadership structure of the TM Org is now set up like a monarchy, with Rajas in charge of separate geographical territories. My brother is the Raja of Denver. The bit about me being a prince is just silliness; I have no title or position in the TM Org. In fact, except for the very rare occasion, I don't even meditate any more.

 
At 12/04/2006 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon said, "The "healer", who happened to be from India, said he had never seen so much disease in such a small, condensed population in his life."

This guy must not spend much time in India. The truth is that this condensed population is made up of an entire city's worth of "seekers" who are still able to believe or hope that these "healers" are anything but fakes themselves. All seekers are insane. TMers are no worse than the rest of us.

 
At 12/05/2006 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did TM back in the early 70's when there wasn't much else available in the States in terms of 'spiritual teaching.'

I even lived in a house with a bunch of TM teachers (initiators).

One summer I attended a course with Maharishi held in Austria. There I received a second mantra (for a price of course).

After sometime when I began to do some reading on my own, I realized that most of what was being taught (for a price), and billed as being secret unless you paid for it, was freely available in books, and or else they were just very basic Hindu practices (pujas) which millions of ordinary Indians know and perform everyday.

In the TM movement you had to be 'special' in order to perform these simple pujas, and these 'great and secret truths,' which had to be paid for, were readily available in books. So I got kind of disgusted with the whole movement, and didn't continue on with it, but decided to travel to India on my own instead to discover what I could outside of the TM movement.

Some years ago I was watching TV, and I saw a kind of infomercial about 'girls' education.' It seemed rather interesting so I watched it for awhile. At the end a woman, dressed in a dark suit, appeared on the screen talking about the benefit of 'girls' education.' This woman looked kind of familiar, and I realized that she was one of the 'initiators' with whom I had shared a house many years ago, and that the infomertial was for a TM school for girls.

Somehow it seemed strange to me that this highly educated, very intelligent woman was still with the movement twenty-five years on, and obviously now a spokesperson for it. She also seemed a complete brainwashed automaton.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home