Borrowing credibility

When trying to establish credibility, people often try to establish links with other credible people and things.

Psychedelics borrow credibility from yogic meditation
Both psychedelics and meditation can provide experiences of mental insights, great creativity, and ecstasy. A plurality of society thinks that meditation provides benefits without the possible harmful effects that sometimes come from psychedelics (although I don’t agree). Psychedelic studies and psychedelic use gain credibility by providing some of the same benefits as meditation that supposedly take years of disciplined practice.

Rebuttal: Meditation has a risk of harming people, especially the people who are gung-ho about reaching enlightenment. Psychedelics also have a risk of causing harm. Psychedelic proponents don’t gain much by borrowing credibility from yogic meditations.

The theory of spiritual emergency borrows credibility from kundalini crises and yogic tradition
Some commenters on psychotic illnesses think that manic psychoses are actually indications of proximity to enlightenment. The similarity between psychotic mania and some kundalini awakenings seemingly make manic psychoses seem acceptable and desirable to some people.

Rebuttal: Some people from yogic traditions expect that seekers will have a kundalini crisis during the early stages of enlightenment, but there is no proof that a state of enlightenment exists (despite millions of meditators existing in the modern scientific age). The similarities between a kundalini crisis and psychotic mania does not enhance the credibility of spiritual emergencies; rather it brings down the credibility of yogic meditation.

 Spiritual paths borrow credibility from intelligent spokespeople
Since very intelligent and articulate people believe in spiritual paths and proselytize for them, the spiritual path gains credibility. Some intellectuals wholeheartedly believe in spiritual paths and raise their own self-esteem by helping to sell a spiritual path. Intelligent people create beautiful descriptions and logical, complicated arguments for spiritual paths.

Rebuttal: Equally intelligent people are skeptics of spiritual paths. Intelligence doesn’t necessarily keep people from making mistakes. Some intelligent people change their minds. Some intelligent people bounce back and forth on different sides of an issue.

Some people advocate an intellectual pursuit to enlightenment. An enormous quantity of spiritual discourse has accumulated over time which appears to be blather to most people but not to intellectuals who study it. Some people recommend koans and other mental techniques to help the mind to see past barriers. Intellectuals who pursue spiritual matters often say that “I didn’t fully understand it before, but now I get it”, but more future days will likely come with the realization that “I didn’t really understand it before, but now I do.”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a master at borrowing credibility
Here are some things that Maharishi used to establish credibility.

  • Prominently stating that TM came from the Shankaracharya tradition in India.
  • Giving himself the title of Maharishi to distinguish himself from ordinary folk.
  • Exhibiting knowledge of the Vedic tradition and the yogic tradition.
  • Touting scientific research that indicated benefits from TM.
  • Using scientists, doctors, and educators who vouched for TM.
  • Using celebrities and community leaders who vouched for TM.
  • Using government proclamations that seemed to vouch for TM.
  • Maharishi displayed humility by showing reverence to Guru Dev and tradition.
  • Maharishi had the status of a brahmachari which fit the persona he was portraying.
  • Maharishi’s outer appearance of long hair, beard, and dhoti fit the persona.
  • Maharishi touted TM news coverage in newspapers, magazines, and television.
  • Maharishi demonstrated mastery of diverse subjects.
  • Maharishi displayed a likable personality.

 

Comparing a kundalini crisis to the religious experience of epileptics

Scholars have noted that epileptics often have a heightened religiosity. The ancient Greeks described epilepsy as a “divine disease, a visitation from the gods”.

The scientific study of epilepsy-related religious experiences has been marked by differences of opinions and facts. Scientific study is complicated in that religious experiences could occur during a seizure (ictal), after a seizure (postictal), or between seizures (chronic interictal and acute interictal).

Epilepsy-related experiences could include hallucinations, depersonalization, derealization, dreamy states, out-of-body experience, ecstasy, and insight into life’s unity/harmony. These experiences are particularly likely to engender religious interpretation and are also the same kind of experiences that people have in the manic episodes of a kundalini crisis.

The following 3 quotes in red font are from an article at Science Direct entitled “Spirituality and Religion in Epilepsy” by Orrin Devinsky and George Lai. The article is available at http://library.allanschore.com/docs/ReligionepilepsyDevinsky08.pdf

“Differentiating genius from pathology may be most difficult regarding religious ideation and experience. Who is touched by madness, who by spirits, and who by both?”

“Similarly we can diagnose a psychotic disorder if there are nonreligious delusional ideas and characteristic hallucinations and negative symptoms. But how can we distinguish the physiology or validity of a religious experience in someone with epilepsy or psychosis from that of a religious sage? We can’t.”

“The nature of religious experiences lays open the question as to how many other religious figures could have had epilepsy. For example, Moses’ experience was one in which he saw a burning bush unconsumed by the fire and heard God’s voice. A medical explanation might attribute his experience to a temporal lobe ecstatic seizure with visual and auditory hallucinations.”

The following 3 quotes in blue font are from the Neural Substrates of Religious Experience by Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D. and John Rabin, M.D. The PDF is available at http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/jnp.9.3.498

“Patients who have culturally acquired explanatory systems of a religious character naturally tend to interpret any ictal experience as possessing religious significance. Studies have demonstrated that experiences that are personal, important, negative, and medical, like most seizures, are particularly likely to be interpreted in a religious framework.

“Deep similarities are readily apparent between these intellectual auras and alterations in the experience of reality that are a common feature of intense, nonepileptic religious experience.”

Only a small percentage of epileptics (in the neighborhood of 4%) have epilepsy-related religious experience. However, some scholars have postulated that these relatively-rare religious experiences throughout history have had major impacts on the world.

“A substantial number of founders of major religions, prophets, and leading religious figures have been documented as having or suggested to have epilepsy (Table 1).”

 Here is the list from the article’s Table 1: Saint Paul, Father of Catholic Church; Margery Kempe, 14th century Christian mystic; Joan of Arc, French saint; St. Catherine of Genoa, Christian mystic; St. Teresa of Avila, Catholic saint; St. Catherine dei Ricci, Catholic saint; Emanuel Swedenborg, founder of New Jerusalem Church; Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement; founder of Mormonism; Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoievsky, Russian novelist; Hieronymous Jaegen, German mystic; Dr. Z (Arthur Thomas Myers), prominent in Society for Psychical Research; Vincent Van Gogh, hyper-religious artist; St. Therese of Lisieux, Catholic saint; and the prophet that can’t be disparaged by anyone without danger of retribution.

Here is a case report of “Hyperreligiosity in a Patient with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” that is available at https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crinm/2015/235856/

On examination, he was uncooperative. He was constantly making religious remarks, saying “God is with me and I do not need doctors or medications.” He would interpret every question asked to him as questioning his faith and at times attempted to convert doctors and staff to Islam. He believed everyone around him was preventing him from obtaining salvation. His family stated that he had a generalized tonic-clonic seizure two days prior to being hospitalized and after the generalized seizure he started having increasing religious thoughts. The wife called an ambulance because she was frightened by his excessive religious speech.

Conclusion

 There are physiological correlates to all religious experiences and peak experiences. I propose that a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience have some of the same physiological parameters.

Just as Guru Maniacs have impacted many people, it is postulated that some epileptics with religious fervor have had major impacts on the world. If a charismatic person has mania or religious fervor, LOOK OUT WORLD!!!

A kundalini crisis brings danger to life. The benefits in a kundalini crisis of increased energy and confidence do not out-weigh the harm of delusions, emotionality, and poor decision-making. The similarities of a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience are scary.

Communications from God

When someone claims that God spoke to him or her, listeners can have polar opposite reactions. Some will think that the person is seriously deluded, while others will think that the person is a highly evolved spiritual person who can help others find God.

During my kundalini crisis, I felt that many mysteries of life were unveiled to me. My thoughts during my kundalini crisis were so powerful and intense that I had no doubt (at that time) about the truth of my realizations. Although I never heard God’s booming voice during my kundalini crisis, I felt that there were messages from God. Now that 27 years have passed since my kundalini crisis, I believe that I was severely deluded during my kundalini crisis.

Based on my experience, I propose and extrapolate that others who think that God has spoken to them have also been having grandiose delusions. This was the gist of my post on Guru Maniacs.

Some spiritual seekers are inclined to accept what a guru says if the guru says the message came from God.

People are attracted to Guru Maniacs who claim messages from God because:

  • people are captivated by the charisma and eloquence of a Guru Maniac
  • the Guru Maniac has an ability to articulate God’s message in a way to enhance his own stature
  • the Guru Maniac wholeheartedly believes that God spoke to them and even the Guru Maniac doesn’t know that he himself is deluded
  • the Guru Maniac is putting on a show when he speaks and the Guru Maniac is capable of showing or hiding different aspects of his personality
  • followers of Guru Maniacs have peak experiences, kriyas, and mystical experiences which convince them that the Guru Maniac knows what he is doing.

In 1959, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave a talk about his conversation with Mother Divine. The transcript of this talk is at http://www.maharishiphotos.com/divine.html and also at http://soos.me/vedic-nectar/maharishis-conversation-with-mother-divine-1959/ .

After the Science of Creative Intelligence came out in 1972, the public relation aspects of the TM movement did not mention God or deities, but the inner circle of the movement and hard-core seekers were aware of the religious and devotional aspects of the TM practice.

People who were very active in the TM movement for decades seemingly bought into Maharishi’s ability to hear from God and also hoped to have their own experiences of God.

TM shenanigans

The Merriam-Webster provides these definitions of shenanigans: 1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose. 2a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct.

There are many more Transcendental Meditation shenanigans than the ones mentioned below. These are the shenanigans that quickly come to my mind.

  • The TM movement used to say that it took 5-8 years to reach CC and that a person would know that they were in CC just as anyone knows they are in the waking state of consciousness. This statement enticed people to meditate regularly and seemed to back up the boast that TM was the best meditation technique.
  • The TM movement said that the practice of rounding would make growth to CC faster although there is no proof that anyone has ever reached CC.
  • TM teachers were encouraged to sacrifice their jobs and family to teach TM full time for the sake of the world. Consequently, many TM teachers remained financially poor, and many did not have normal family lives.
  • The TM movement told TM-Sidhas to move to Fairfield, Iowa to do group program and then their future well-being would be taken care. There was no financial safe-guard.
  • If TM meditators see other gurus, they often are ostracized from the TM movement. Fear of being ostracized kept some on the straight and narrow TM path.
  • The TM organization has a non-religious message for the general public, but another message for the inner circle and for hard-core seekers. The TM movement gradually entices some TM meditators to go down the TM rabbit hole that borrows much from Hinduism, is cult-like, and is often hard to escape from.
  • The cost of TM instruction has gone up and down over the years. Many people (both inside and outside of the TM movement) think that the cost is exorbitant now and that it should be lower.
  • The TM organization has abruptly made changes in the structure of TM centers over the years that were insensitive to the needs of TM teachers.
  • The TM movement gave special treatment to celebrities and large donors. The movement sometimes withdrew special treatment as soon as the money stopped flowing from donors.
  • Fancy titles to stroke egos have been given to some people who worked full-time in the TM movement (e.g. Governor, Executive Governor, Governor General, Raja). The title of “His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” fits into the modus operandi of using titles to create an impression of greatness and credibility.

 

5 to 8 year plan to CC

From a blog post at https://tmfree.blogspot.be/2009/12/transcendental-meditation-and-tm-sidhis.html dated December 24, 2009:

About 1965, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promised that “TM, 15-20 minutes twice a day, will make you enlightened in 5 to 8 years.” Yet, around 1975, he introduced the TM-Sidhis program, whose purpose was to speed us on the road to enlightenment. Well, it’s now been over 30 years since people started practicing the TM-Sidhis, but I still haven’t heard of many people getting enlightened.

Why did Maharishi state that meditators would reach Cosmic Consciousness (CC) in 5 to 8 years? One or more of the following reasons may apply:

  • At the time, Maharishi thought that this statement was true.
  • Maharishi knew the statement was not true, but said it in order to attract more people to TM and to keep them regular in TM. The specific prediction of 5 to 8 years created the impression that Maharishi was enlightened and that he knew how to help others become enlightened.
  • Maharishi thought himself to be enlightened and that he could help others to become enlightened. He visualized the stir he would create bringing lots of enlightened TMers to a Kumbha Mela celebration.
  • Maharishi had grandiose ideas of what he could do, and he longed for the acclaim he would receive from being responsible for the enlightenment of individuals, world peace, and promulgating Vedic ideas.

Here’s another excerpt from an internet forum at https://www.mail-archive.com/fairfieldlife@yahoogroups.com/msg142264.html dated October 24, 2008:

Humbolt-Question: “Um, Maharishi you say within 5 to 8 years, one that practices TM regularly would become Cosmically Conscious…Ah, I don’t know if that’s,…ah specific time”.

 Answer by MMY on mp3:  “That has been the experience of hundreds of people around the world…………(laughter) that has been the experience, the experience, even though it’s not, it’s not principally right to allot some fixed time for Cosmic Consciousness. Principally it’s not right, but, that has been the, the common experience around the World.”

 Fast forward to Fuiggi, Italy auditorium, MMY “You could meditate a million years and not reach CC unless you come to these courses”!  Heard by myself.

 And later Charlie Lutes recounting some stories of MMY, he asks MMY, “MMY some people are thinking they’re going to reach TM in 5-to-8 years”,(paraphrased).

 Answer according to Charlie-“Let them think that, at least they will meditate that long”.

 Hey, for what it’s worth…:-) I still enjoy TM regularly, but I must confess after 40 years I’m still no where close, Ha, Ha!

Conclusion

The concept of enlightenment is the greatest spiritual incentive of all time. After hearing about the concept of enlightenment and after experiencing some altered states of consciousness, some people are willing to go to the ends of the earth to reach enlightenment.

The 5 to 8 year plan helped to keep me and others hooked into the TM movement for years. I and others continued to devote our lives for enlightenment long after completing 8 years. Our wishful thinking that a state of enlightenment existed around the corner kept us hooked.

At other places on this blog, I have explained some of the reasons that I no longer believe that a state of enlightenment exists.

Dye the cloth

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that the benefits of practicing Transcendental Meditation accumulated over time. The analogy to clarify this accumulation was called “dye the cloth”. Here is a link that has a transcript and video of a 1972 talk by Maharishi in Houston, Texas in which he uses the “dye the cloth” analogy.

Briefly described, in order to dye a white cloth to be yellow the cloth is dipped into a vat of yellow dye and then hung out in the sun which fades the cloth. Then the cloth is dipped into the dye again and put into the sun again but this time the cloth doesn’t fade quite as much. By repeating this process numerous times, finally the cloth becomes colorfast.

The TM technique was like infusing Pure Consciousness into the mind, and activity was fading most but not all of that infusion. Through regular practice, the mind would eventually hold onto Pure Consciousness even while in activity.

The accumulation of benefits was supposed to lead to enlightenment. This was a main principle of the TM movement and helped to keep me and others practicing TM regularly twice a day.

However, this analogy and description did not fit my experience. I did benefit from each meditation in relaxation, energy, and alertness, but the benefit did not accumulate over the months and years. I say this in retrospect; when I was a TM teacher, I believed that I and others were accumulating benefits even when it was not apparent.

Contrary to the theory that benefits gradually accumulate, some traditions and people state that there can be a dark night of soul before enlightenment. Thus, whether a seeker feels great or terrible, they can fool themselves into thinking that they are on the verge of enlightenment.

Another way to describe the TM benefit was through releasing physical stresses in the body. Maharishi taught that we accumulated stresses in our physiology and that thoughts in meditation were an indication that stress had been released. One would be enlightened after all stresses had been released.

Another way to describe the accumulation of benefit involves the awakening of the kundalini energy center. I don’t know how often that Maharishi spoke about this, but here is a link to a 1970 transcript. I and other TM teachers may not have directly heard Maharishi speak about kundalini, but we were aware of this theory by talking with each other. Kundalini energy was supposed to move up the spine and activate parts of the body. Enlightenment was the result of kundalini energy activating energy centers in the head. To facilitate the upward rise of kundalini energy, I and others would meditate with an upright spine while sitting cross-legged or in full lotus.

Conclusion

These theories enticed me and others to meditate regularly and to go on courses in order to speed our growth to enlightenment. Although there was an immediate benefit from practicing TM, I did not experience an accumulation of benefit over the years of practicing TM.

I doubt that a state of enlightenment exists. I overdid meditation and related spiritual activities; this led to my kundalini crisis/mental health problem. I suspect that many other meditators and religious people have overdone their spiritual pursuits.

I and others have gone on a wild goose chase in which we think and hope that we are either enlightened or we are close to enlightenment.

Powerful silence

TM teachers often talk about the increasing charm of going deeper in meditation. Sometimes the charm and silence of meditation is much greater than at other times; I refer to these times as powerful silence. It then seems that the silence is vast and powerful. At the moment of powerful silence, the silence seems that it could be life-changing.

The following is an excerpt from A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision by George Ellis: As we were meditating, I began to experience deep inner silence, and I felt the inner presence of pure expanding love. I had the innocent thought that I wished the nun could also have this experience. When I opened my eyes the nun turned to me and said in her religious context, “You had the experience of God, and you shared it with me.”

In my opinion, interpreting powerful silence as an experience of God or as an experience worth seeking is where religions and spiritual traditions made a major mistake!

Things that I infer:

  • There is a “sweet spot” for how long to meditate in order to get maximum benefits. Meditating past the “sweet spot” could bring more harm than good.
  • Powerful silence in meditation can entice one to go to great lengths to re-experience powerful silence. In my opinion, becoming a gung ho seeker of enlightenment or other spiritual experiences is a pitiable path.
  • A particular physiology is the underlying basis for experiencing powerful silence, and this physiology is not necessarily a healthy state.
  • The esoteric explanations of Pure Consciousness and transcending are probably wrong. A state of enlightenment probably does not exist but probably can’t be proven or disproven.
  • It is forgivable that gurus and yogis came up with an esoteric explanation of powerful silence. It is forgivable that they mistook a kundalini crisis as enlightenment. But it is questionable (and perhaps not forgivable) when gurus acted as if they had all answers to life and then they took disciples/followers.