Sunday, May 3, 2009

Transcendental Meditation - Scamming for 50 Years - Now at a Neighorhood Near You

Back in November 2008, I wrote: This how our world is going to end: Not by climate change, nor by asteroid calamity, nor by Obama...it will be from stupidity. I am still disturbed by our publicly funded schools pushing woo on the future of our country but when I saw this article in the St. Paul Pioneer press today I decided I'd try to warn you about it. Here is a snippet:

Lower crime rates. Fewer auto accidents. Decreased hospital admissions. Maybe even world peace.

That's what we can expect now that the Maharishi Invincibility Center has opened on St. Paul's East Side.

These are some pretty extraordinary claims: reducing auto accidents, less sick people and holy shit, world peace! I don't even know where to start because the reporter, Richard Chin, seems to swallows every wild, thoroughly debunked claim this organization throws at him. Here is more:

Advocates say transcendental meditation can reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety and stress, increase intelligence and help people quit smoking and achieve "physical and emotional invincibility."

If as little as 1 percent of a community practices the technique, advocates say, transcendental meditation can result in a drop in crime, fewer accidents, less illness, even a World Series win for the Cubs. "They could if they would practice it," said Billie Jean Billman, one of the new center's co-directors.

"Joe Namath was a very big advocate. He said it put him in the zone on the playing field," said Jim Horwath, the other director.

Even world peace could break out if enough people practiced transcendental meditation, according to believers. "When we reach that threshold, the whole world lights up," Billman said.

It's taken three years to construct this new center. It includes these features:

Under construction for the past three years, the building was designed with a tower, arches and columns and an east-facing entrance. "It brings in the most beneficial influences of the sun," Billman said.

The building houses rooms where people can learn and practice transcendental meditation and yoga, a kitchen and an executive conference center. There also are rooms full of mattresses for an advanced meditation technique called TM-Sidhi, or yogic flying, in which practitioners meditate while hopping in the air from a seated position. "We hope eventually the whole building will be filled up with yogic fliers," Billman said. Other rooms in the center are designed for ayurvedic pulse readings, where experts can detect the onset of a cold, heart disease or asthma by feeling your pulse, Billman said. "A really good expert can go very deep," Horwath said. Another room is reserved for Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology, which uses sound vibrations to help chronic disorders ranging from back pain to arthritis, according to Horwath.

Let's look at the claims:

  1. Lower Crime Rates: Thoroughly debunk by James Randi in the book Flim Flam in chapter 5. Here is a snippet: Randi checked with the Fairfield Police Dept, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Motor Vehicles and found that Rabinoff’s claims were not true (Randi 1982, 99-108). More on that claim here.
  2. Less Hospital Admissions: I suspect this has to do their claim that TM reduces stress. If there are any studies on this, I suspect at best they are confusing correlation with causation. And if TM makes people healthier, why all the supplements and herbs for sale on their website?
  3. World Peace: Nice notion but doesn't work. What they are referring to here is called: Maharishi effect. " According to TM scientists: "collective meditation causes changes in a fundamental, unified physical field, and...those changes radiate into society and affect all aspects of society for the better" I refer you again to Flim Flam Chapter 5 and confusing correlation with causation.
  4. Reduced Blood Pressure: If you blood pressure is considered high, go see your doctor. The National Heart and Lung Institute lists these treatments, none of which include TM.
  5. Lower Anxiety and Stress: See here.
  6. Increased Intelligence: I have yet to find evidence for this. Seems to if you are giving some cult $2000 to learn to fly, that's not very intelligent.
  7. Helps Quit Smoking: Not sure how TM will help that but since it's run like a cult, perhaps they beat the crap out of you for smoking.
  8. Physical and Emotional Invincibility: This would be super cool. Invincible people running around everywhere. This claim is patently ridiculous. Even Superman isn't invincible.
  9. Gets you "in the zone" when you play football (but can't fix your knees): Anecdote used as evidence. Unsubstantiated.
  10. Building design brings the most beneficial influences of the sun: Sure I suppose if you design your building properly, you have more sun light streaming to illuminate the interior therefore a reduction in need for lamps. Plus, you get all the great heat from the sun to warm things up in the winter.
  11. Gives you the ability to "fly": This is another ridiculous claim thoroughly debunked everywhere. The only way this claim can "fly" is if you change the definition of flying to jumping around on a bed with your legs crossed. Funny video here.
  12. Ayurvedic Pulse Reading detects a cold, heart disease and asthma: Now this is another down right dangerous claim. Medicine has better ways to detect these things and may use a real pulse reading as a good place to start but the last thing you want to do is use this garbage to diagnose serious and potentially fatal diseases.
  13. Sound vibrations used to help back pain and arthritis: Not sure about this one other than I know a nice heating pad and a couple of ibuprofen work find for me. I don't need to go spend hundred of dollar at this place form some "sound vibrations."

Lots of claims, I know. TM and this "guri" have been exhaustively debunked for about 30 years now. Despite Yogi's claim of 40 million practitioners, we still don't have world peace and we still can't fly.

I got a little lazy towards the end in my research please post links in the comments to help fill in the holes I've left. I'll leave you with some references at the bottom of this post. My point is always: Think critically, don't take my word for it and surely don't take your local media's word for it either.

References:

Falling Down the TM Rabbit Hole - How Transcendental Meditation Really Works - A Critical Opinion.

Transcendental Meditation - Skeptic's Dictionary

Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi

trancenet.net

James Randi Educational Foundation

6 comments:

  1. Hi. I do not practice TM, but do meditate. I was just wondering why are you so threatened by TM. It's common knowledge that meditation works and actually does more good than the type of controlled Christianity that is practiced in the world. Meditation does not start wars and if it is a scam what is to be gained by it or do they scam for the hell of it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Werner: Thanks for your comment! This post is specific to TM. This particular TM group is making wide unsubstantiated claim and still make thoroughly debunked claims. My main beef is with the credulous reporter who failed to even do a simple google search on it.

    Comparing meditation (although I specified TM in the post) to Christianity is non-sequitur. They are completely different. This TM group, on the other hand, seems is like a cult more like Scientology, in my opinion.

    I'd like to view more details about this claim that mediation "works" "does more good" and "does not start wars."

    Regarding this comment: "if it is a scam what is to be gained by it..."
    They do it for the money. They charge $2000 for the introductory class. They claim millions have been trained...do the math. This TM group is also attempting to lure you into buying their herbal supplements (which I find odd if TM can heal). I'd need a whole new post to dig into that.

    To learn more about the harm things like this do go here: http://whatstheharm.net/

    Off the top of my head, the harm from TM can include: spending money on it when you should be paying your mortgage or buying medicine for your kids; trying out TM to cure your disease http://csicop.org/si/9505/tm.html; it could be a cult http://www.suggestibility.org/cult0.php.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been a meditation teacher for many years, which includes teaching Transcendental Meditation. I can see how you reached your anti-TM conclusions, since most of your references are to the handful of rabid anti-TM websites. And I agree that TM course fees ($1500 for adults, USA) are elitist and exclude many. However, to "throw out the baby with the bath water" as you have magnificently accomplished is not consistent with your anti-ignorance stance.

    In my experience, TM can transform a life from suffering to progress in just a few minutes, it is that powerful. And my published research shows that anxiety is reduced in almost anyone by two weeks' practice of transcending, 15 minutes twice a day.

    I doubt if I can change your mind, since you do have a kernel of truth: all the pro-TM people and websites really do exceed rationality in their enthusiasm for this effective and natural technique. But I thought perhaps my skeptical comment might be helpful to those of your readers who may actually be considering learning a transcending technique to improve their lives or to improve society.

    David Spector
    President,
    Natural Stress Relief/USA

    ReplyDelete
  4. @David. Simple meditation or sitting quietly can also reduce anxiety and reduce blood pressure temporarily. Do you teach people to fly?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very exciting publish, I really like it. I completely acknowledge with you that to do details in relaxation are frequent, but we do not get burdened with them, actually Acem relaxation allows us cope with without stress. sometimes it do creates us unsettled but them are relevant to our value program not with the record.
    do you have some content relevant to relaxation assisting us being practical. i would really like to study that.

    peaceful relaxation

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not expert or even a novice in meditation but I highly recommend the Secular Buddhist if you want more info http://www.thesecularbuddhist.com/

      Delete

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