(Investigator 179, 2018 March)
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 (TMTM).
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.
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.
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, TMTM
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withdrawn and detached from the world around him and subject to
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.
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.