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Friday, September 08, 2006

Heaven on Earth

I've been reading an out of print book (published in 1992) called "Heaven on Earth: Dispatches from the Spiritual Frontier", by Michael D'Antonio. The author is a journalist who sets out to explore the new age movement in America. I wanted to read it because one of the chapters involves a visit to the Transcendental Meditation university Maharishi International University (Now Maharishi University of Management). Having struggled with the question of whether TM is a cult, and finally settling on the description of New Age Religion, I was eager to see it situated in the context of other New Age phenomena. Get past the deliberate lying about science, and maybe I can see it as a genuine attempt to create myths which are consistent with what is known about science.

Actually the author singled TM out as the one new age movement that seemed cult-like to him. He describes it as ultimately a repudiation of the values of the 60's, settling into a rigid authoritarian regime, where much of day to day life is controlled by the Maharishi. He gives Maharishi credit for in some sense starting the new age movement in America, even though where he ended up was so far from where he started. (Actually I'm a little skeptical of how magnanimous his early attempts were.) I've also read a chapter on the "vortices" in Sedona. I like the way in which the author is an integral character in the stories he tells even though he is interviewing people, giving background and other such research oriented activities.

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