Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TM™ Psych-Ops, Then And Now

File under: Gurus to the Stars and The Siddhi of PR

Gp pal John Knapp on his own experience as a hypnotized participant in the early TM™ movement:
I started that residence course as a skeptic about TM. I came out one month later as a true believer who wanted to become a TM teacher. If you had asked me back then what happened on that course to change my beliefs, I would have said that I had learned new and wonderful things, that I saw the light, and that I was convinced by the scientists. What I would not have said was, "Meditating many times a day produced something akin to a hypnotic trance, and I was given a post-hypnotic suggestion to believe in TM and to become a TM teacher."

A person very dear to me attended a similar one-month TM course in 1974, and wrote me during the course, "I have a sensation like I am holding onto a wall, and a strong wind is tearing me off the wall, moving me to become a TM teacher, and it is only a matter of time before I will give way." After the TM course, she, like I, became a TM teacher.
We know why John became a TM™ teacher: it worked for him then. Despite the shady business practices and psych-ops the Maharishi was running on his students, mediation is mediation, and meditation usually transforms. The whole thing is a great illustration of how our cognitive unconscious operates. The suggestions go in and the belief is calculated, which is translated into zeal in the experiencing consciousness. This has an effect similar to putting Vaseline on a camera lens. In the best cases, that seems to wear off after a while, at least for those courageous enough to think for themselves. But in the worst, lives are laid waste by a slavish devotion to a system that just does not suit them, although it does suit those who are receiving the fees and cash offerings.

Today, TM™ psych-ops are right back where they began: the Beatles, or at least one of them, along with a cracked-out movie director and a host of luminous dupes who have it better than the rest of us:
Sir Paul [McCartney], who is co-chairing the event, learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1967 and attended a course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in 1968.

Sir Paul will share top-billing with Donovan, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper, Moby, jazz flutist Paul Horn, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.

David Lynch, Russell Simmons, Laura Dern, and other surprise guests will fill out the star-studded slate as presenters.

The concert will raise funds to teach one million at-risk children the Transcendental Meditation technique, giving them the life-long tools to overcome stress and violence—and promote peace and success in their lives. Over 60,000 children in various countries have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in the past two and a half years thanks to the David Lynch Foundation.
Apparently, one thing they've learned in all those years of hypnotizing people is that the extent of their brainwashing is inversely proportional to the age of their victims. Get 'em while they're young, David. Well-played.

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At 2/11/2009 8:29 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

Jody, back inthose days of the 1970's Mugharishi axtually let yours truly become a TM teacher! I wnet to such a weekend retreat as mentioned in the story and what convinced me to get on the bus was while meditatin, I heared John Wayne repeatin my private mantra! Sure, you can say it was just in my own head but to me it had the power of a mule kick! "How did John Wayne get to know my private mantra? How did a fellow that big get inside my head box? This here has got to mean somethin!" I couldn't figure it out but I decided if it was important enough for John Wayne to come out of retirement, travel all the way to Lufkin, Texas, get inside my head and repeat my mantra, I had better take it seriously!

At 2/11/2009 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just TM but the Art of Living is also looking to capture young people through YES! and YES+. That is supposed to be the big push right now.

At 2/13/2009 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The meditation technique of TM itself isn't really bad. To close one's eyes, sit comfortably, and mentally repeat a word (and any word will do) does serve to calm and quiet the mind. So none of that is bad, and I would say it is actually beneficial.

What is not beneficial, IMO, is all of the hoopla that goes along with TM. For a while in the early 1970's I practiced this meditation technique because at that time it really was the only game in town.

Many of my friends became teachers, and I myself attended a one month course with Maharshi Mahesh in Europe (I think that was in 1970).

But what continually nagged at me, and in the end why I lost confidence in the organization was its emphasis on a certain type of secrecy, as if there was this great knowledge which one could only get by paying for it through the organization.

The more I read on my own whatever books I could find about Hinduism, the more I realized that all of the information that one had to pay to receive through TM was readily and publicly available.

So that really bothered me, and in the end, I felt the whole thing was bogus because of this. For me this understanding dispelled the 'mystique' of TM, (and I was probably always a bit skeptical anyway).

However, the meditation technique itself is okay. But then again, it doesn't need to be secret. It doesn't need to be paid for, and it certainly doesn't belong to TM.

At 2/13/2009 2:21 PM, Anonymous ellen said...

I agree with Anon 10.16, the technique itself was the first formal meditation I tried and I found it beneficial. The TM organisation itself was another matter, moneygrabbing and unnecessarily full of hype.
After some practice I began to remember that I had experienced similar mental states naturally as a child, on waking and drifting off to sleep, etc.-- so not even much of a technique to sell, more a natural state to formalise and systemise.
Hoopla indeed.

At 2/15/2009 10:37 PM, Blogger RandomStu said...

Knapp quoted...
"I have a sensation like I am holding onto a wall, and a strong wind is tearing me off the wall, moving me to become a TM teacher..."

If a TM course is anything like the large-group dynamic situations I've been in... I don't doubt that attendees felt this pressure to go along with the crowd.

The mistake is, though, to think that TM and similar situations are that much different from the social influences we deal with all the time. This herding behavior is evident not just in religious groups, but in political, social, and therapeutic groups.

Sure, sometimes a situation enhances the inner pull to be a follower (stuff like being in a new, enclosed, remote location; implicit teachings against rationality; etc). But it's all on a continuum. And in any of these situations -- TM, religious, political, therapeutic -- it's always our own desire follow the authority or group that we're ultimately grappling with.

Maybe the urge to become a TM teacher was like a strong wind... but that analogy leaves out any mention of our own decision, our own will. People DO walk against the wind. People DO think for themselves, even in situation where they're surrounded by group-think. We can acknowledge it's difficult to be clear and independent, but it's not impossible, it's not like being swept up by an unstoppable external wind-force.

After all, the great great majority of people, even those who were exposed to Maharishi's org, never became TM teachers, never considered giving up free thinking for group dogma. Maybe there can be something about making one's own decision to think and act independently... that can be more powerful than these external winds.

The importance of our own thinking and actions can't be rightfully devalued, just because it's always difficult to resist the crowd.


At 2/16/2009 3:10 PM, Blogger Ruth said...

Stuart, it is much harder to resist the crowd when you are a young person, especially if you are vulnerable because of issues in your life. Today, as a woman in my mid-50s I could not imagine getting swayed by the TMO. But as a young woman I was. Like many college students I was looking for answers and TM was supposed to have The Answer.

At 2/17/2009 12:32 AM, Blogger John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Stuart,

You may not realize it, but the quote you attribute to me was actually written by another contributor to TM-Free Blog, Laurie. The quote does not represent my experience or thinking. I think that Laurie has a definite perspective on her experience and that she represents it well.

John M. Knapp, LMSW

At 2/17/2009 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Jesuits of my youth used to boast: 'Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.'
Not an idle boast, as I've spent most of my life trying to undo the crazed beliefs implanted before I was seven.
Looks like TM are taking a leaf out of the Jesuits handbook on mind control.
Pity the poor kids.

At 2/17/2009 10:47 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

TM is OK without the follw through ideas and falderall. It's kind of like the Hare krishnas, if you just got the free food without the sermons and the haircut it would be just fine eatin!


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