All you need is funds

Former Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has the scientific solution to end terrorism and war forever. He just needs you to ante up $1-billion

Montreal Mirror/October 11, 2001
By Philip Preville

Around the world, the war against terrorism is heating up. More fighters and warships are headed to the Middle East. Food rations and special-forces commandos are being airlifted into Afghanistan. Ground troops are being readied for combat. And transcendental meditators are being mobilized by the thousands. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation® movement, is hurriedly assembling a massive battalion of Yogic Flyers to stamp out global terrorism with "an indomitable influence of positivity."

Up to 3,000 Yogic Flyers, trained in the advanced Transcendental Meditation®-Sidhi method of meditation known as Yogic Flying, have already gathered at two of the Maharishi's campuses in central India. Up to 6,000 more are currently being called into action, with an eventual goal of assembling 40,000 Yogic Flyers. At a recent Washington, D.C. press conference, the Maharishi made a rare public appearance, requesting funds to carry out his peace plan. "I am proud to announce that I have the solution to all crime and negativity and all that and all that," said the smiling Maharishi in a rambling, repetitive statement delivered via satellite from the Netherlands. "If I have the money, that is all I need," said the Beatles' former guru, now in his 80s. "This is why I have asked for [donations to] that-what is it called again?--endowment fund." The Maharishi's Endowment Fund for Permanent World Peace is seeking to raise $1-billion to maintain the 40,000-meditator assembly in perpetuity. A full-page ad for the Endowment appeared in The New York Times shortly after the attacks (alongside other full-page ads from companies and governments, including Canada, expressing their support for the people of Manhattan), asking New Yorkers to ante up for the Maharishi's peace plan. The cash call smacks of poor taste, taking advantage of people's fears and anxieties by making promises of peace.

Even so, says McGill religious studies professor Arvind Sharma, the appeal makes sense. "It's good to see that someone is calling for a peaceful solution," says Sharma. "In times like this, never underestimate the power of prayer. Any believer of any religion will attest to that." Fair enough. But-and this is where the Yogic Flying solution tests credulity-the Maharishi's supporters say spirituality has nothing to do with it. Leaders of the global Transcendental Meditation® (or TM) movement insist that the laws of physics offer definitive proof that their 40,000-meditator assembly will bring perpetual peace and harmony throughout the planet.

Says Neil Paterson, leader of the Maharishi-inspired Natural Law Party of Canada: "This isn't a religious or spiritual effort. This is science. "Weird science --The 40,000 Yogic Flyers would act like a giant radio transmitter" radiating positivity worldwide, explains physicist John Hagelin, last year's presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party of America. "The physics of it are identical." That's the simplest explanation for what TM-ers call "the technologies of consciousness." The Yogic Flyers' claim to scientific status reaches into the deepest conundrums of theoretical physics: the Unified Field Theory, more commonly known as the Theory of Everything, or TOE. TOE is an attempt to explain all forces in the universe-gravitational, electromagnetic and atomic-in a single equation expressing the "Unified Field" from which they all emerge.

Albert Einstien worked on TOE for the last 30 years of his life; Stephen Hawking is one of many to pick up the pieces today. Despite the legions of eggheads working the problem, the definitive TOE remains a mystery. But never mind. TM leaders say the Unified Field exists at the level of human consciousness, and that Yogic Flying allows them to access it. And the figure of 40,000 meditators wasn't pulled from a hat; it's the result of a specific mathematical equation. The formula is as follows: a gathering of Yogic Flyers, equal to the square root of one per cent of the world's population, can reduce violence and conflict around the world. Given the current global population of six billion, the formula calls for 8,000 Yogic Flyers.

"With 8,000 we can have an impact, but it won't be enough to deal with suicidal terrorists," says Hagelin, who teaches at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. "We've multiplied the minimum number by five to arrive at 40,000. It's a safety factor." But can a giant warm-fuzzy generator stop people from killing each other? Yes, provided you understand another branch of physics: superconductor theory. In a superconductor, which is a metal cooled to extremely low temperatures, all atoms function collectively and-surprisingly-remain impervious to external magnetic fields.

The Yogic Flyers would unify and harmonize global consciousness like the atoms of a superconductor, creating a field of "pure invincibility" and making every last person on earth impervious to homicidal thoughts. Metaphoric mish-Mahesh-mash? It's all so simple in the end, isn't it? If everyone would just take an ingot of aluminium, freeze it to within 10 degrees of absolute zero, and expose it to an electromagnetic current, then we'd all know how to put an eternal end to human bloodlust.

"It seems to me that they"re mixing metaphors," says Peter Watson, a physicist at Carleton University in Ottawa and an expert on pseudo-science.

They're using things like TOE and superconductors as analogies for human consciousness. "I've met John Hagelin. He's an extremely talented mathematician and clever physicist who has taken a perfectly good scientific theory and, unfortunately, applied it to a realm where it doesn't make any sense."

Hagelin points out that Yogic Flying peace technology has been scientifically proven. On many occasions, the Maharishi's supporters have gathered thousands of meditators in a single place, then attempted to measure the decline of global conflict. Those kinds of measurements are hard to come by-they sometimes measure it by comparing newspaper reports of global violence and bloodshed on different days of the week-but some of their research has been published in reputable academic journals. Many remain skeptical.

"There are no studies-other than the ones they've done themselves-to support their claim," said Mike Kropveld of Info-Cult, a Montreal-based resource centre. "The fact is that the TM movement has been around for 40 years, yet conflicts and wars continue. But facts usually do not stand in the way of strongly held beliefs."

Kropveld also points out that the Maharishi has never been short of funds. Recent reports have estimated the worth of the global TM movement at $3.5-billion (U.S.). "In times of great stress," adds Kropveld, "people seek magical solutions that will fix everything. And there's always someone around who'll offer them one."

But for Hagelin, Paterson and all the Maharishi's devotees, there's no hocus-pocus involved. Every time a war breaks out, they gather as many Yogic Flyers as they can to crank up the global harmony quotient. Hagelin is feeling, for lack of a better word, war-weary. "We keep assembling, disassembling and reassembling these groups every time," he says.

"I wish we had the necessary funds to keep it up, but we don't. We need to create this group of 40,000 so that we won't have to worry about violence ever again."

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