MEDITATION

(Investigator 179, 2018 March)


History

Neanderthal man probably meditated while contemplating the stars above long before the word was invented. Down through the ages, all cultures have produced their shamans, medicine men and witch-doctors, who in turn have developed their own techniques as healing aids or spiritual guidance. In recent times, the practice has been exploited for financial gain, principally through the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation programme (TM
TM).
 

Theory

It is not possible to define Meditation in precise terms as there are many categories. Principally, the intention is to focus one's consciousness towards a specific path – the pursuit of enlightenment, exercise through Hatha Yoga or T'ai Chi, or martial arts such as Akido.


Practice

Meditation involves anything from a few minutes a day to several hours depending on the procedure. It can be practised by the individual or under the tutelage of a "guru" or teacher. One category of Meditation is based on body control using yoga. A posture is assumed in which the body remains immobile during which the metabolic level is lowered so reducing stress.

Concentrating on a simple object such as a colour, or the continuous repetition of a word or mantra are two other popular methods, as is the deliberate relaxation of muscular tension.


Assessment

Although moderate exercise and relaxation do have limited therapeutic effects, there is no evidence to support claims that Meditation can cure disease or illness. The tendency to attach undue credence to anything originating in the "mysterious" orient however, does expose the vulnerable to exploitation. Practices evolved for the purpose of combating cancer for example, are highly questionable.

Also on the debit side, TM
TM instructors (Scott 1978) have revealed that it can be harmful for those who become trapped in the state of mind the Maharishi calls "cosmic consciousness" – extended meditation which causes a person to become withdrawn and detached from the world around him and subject to hallucinations.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is revealing to note that the personal lives of some Eastern mystics and practitioners do not bear out their claims. Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society suffered from diabetes, asthma, rheumatism, blood pressure, eye problems and was overweight. Vivikananda, who introduced Yoga to the west, was also a diabetic, an asthmatic and died young. Datta Bal, the scientist guru died of cirrhosis, and Rajneesh died of a massive heart attack before he reached sixty.

The failure of TM'ers to demonstrate that they can overcome the effect of gravity is well documented. In Britain, a dozen believers paid over $4000 each to go to Switzerland where TM instructors initiated them into the art of levitation. When they returned, David Berglas, a prominent magician offered to repay each of the levitators their investment if they would appear with him on TV to demonstrate – they all declined. In April 1991, at Washington, D.C., USA, three people who sued the Transcendental Meditation Movement for falsely promising to teach them to fly (without an aircraft), reached an out-of-court settlement. A prolonged mass meditation by 4000 trained TM meditators in the same city, ostensibly to reduce the violent crime rate, not only had no effect, but the Washington police data actually had the crime rate going up at the time.

James Randi, the American magician and sceptic, has  had on offer for decades, a prize of $10,000, and Australian Skeptics $100,000, to be paid to any person who can demonstrate the power of true levitation – there have never been any applicants.


References:

Bach, Marcus. 1992. Strange Sects and Curious Cults. Dorset Press, New York.

Bhakitivedanta, A.C. 1987. Chant and be Happy, The Grifffin Press Ltd., NeUey, S.A.

Christopher, M. 1975. Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. T.Y. Crowel Co.

Denniston, D. and McWilliams, P. 1975. The TM Book. Warner Books. NY.

Evans, Dr C. 1973. Cults of Unreason. Geo. C. Harrap & Co.
 
Hanna, David. 1979. Cults in America. Belmont Tower Books. N.Y.

Kovoor, A. 1980. Gods, Demons & Spirits. Jaico Publishing. Bombay.

Randi, J. 1986. Flim Flam. Prometheus Books. Buffalo. NY.

Scott, R.D. 1978. Transcendental Misconceptions. Beta Books.


Edwards, Harry 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.


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