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Saturday, November 25, 2006

middle ground?

Quote from Heaven on Earth by Michael D'Antonio p. 286 (note that MIU is Maharishi International University, the previous name of MUM):

But the deception I uncovered at MIU was more disturbing, on a personal level, because the people I met there
were somewhat like me. They were educated, seemingly open-minded, and idealistic adults. They were well aware of the challenges that science and reason posed for religion, but they still ached for spiritual comfort. So they had sought a middle ground, a spiritual practice supported by empirical fact. Such a middle ground would appeal to me. I, too, have been disillusioned by the conflict of reason and religion, and I also feel the hunger for spiritual comfort and community. I would have welcomed the discovery of a middle way, a path to spirituality that was consistent with reason.

But TM, as it is practiced at MIU, isn't a middle ground. It is like the worst of religion: unreasonable, repressive, authoritarian. And knowing this, I had to acknowledge that these people, my peers, were vulnerable and fragile human beings. They were as vulnerable as any of the born-again Christians who were duped by TV evangelists in the 1980s. They were just as fragile as the frightened, impoverished believers who sent millions of dollars to the Depression-era radio priest Father Coughlin, who preyed on the fear and disillusionment of his time.
... Whatever the reason, like the others, Orsatti has followed his leader into a retreat from reality. With the Maharishi, they have turned Transcendental Meditation, the tap root of the New Age, into a grandiose, narcissistic dream, a form of intellectual bondage, which they call enlightenment.

This is so far some of the most neutral writing I've found on TM. I guess there was a book about the sociology of new religious movements, that I unfortunately lost.
My hope for TM is that it will become less isolated. To do this, it would have to be less guru-centric, because one person is just not enough. I wonder what will happen after the Maharishi is gone? Will he become like Joseph Smith for the Mormons? I imagine that he can't maintain his hold on the day to day life any more, but it will be interesting to watch.

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