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*John Knapp on the History of Crisis in the TM Movement

"Up until the moment that gunfire broke out in Guyana, Jim Jones was considered a fine humanitarian -- perhaps at worst a little foolish."

Back to "TranceNet: Emergency Alert"


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- June 12, 1996

"Look, the Maharishi has had one crisis after another since the first Year of the World Plan in 1972. So what's the big deal?"

Maharishi's extravagant claims for impending doom have steadily escalated for 40 years. In the 50s, he hinted that only TM could avert nuclear war. He framed "National campaigns" to initiate mass numbers of citizens into TM in Nepal, the Philippines, Nigeria, Israel, the former USSR, Mozambique, Brazil, and elsewhere to avert national calamities, war, famine, and pestilence.

He threatened us that failure to institute his World Plan would begin World War III in the 70s. World War III reared its ugly head again in the 80s, unless permanent communities of 7,000 -- later 10,000 -- TMers weren't assembled immediately, financed by government funds.

Why does the Maharishi make these incessant demands for ever greater commitment by TMers?

The Maharishi has an endemic problem on his hands. "Enlightenment," "flying," the "Age of Enlightenment" and other miracles stubbornly refuse to arrive.

The Maharishi promised enlightenment in a few months during the 50s. When it failed to develop for his followers, he blamed the low state of "world consciousness" and began a World Tour that he claimed would bring peace through meditation within 10 years. He also introduced "advanced techniques" to speed evolution -- at a price.

When world peace didn't arrive in 10 years, at first he announced his retirement, his mission a failure. But when the Beatles breathed life into his tiny movement, he decided he had underestimated Western stress and in the 70s announced that the World Plan would bring enlightenment to everyone within 3 to 5 years, if everyone became a TM teacher at $5,000 a head.

In the late 70s, he promised the sidhis, or supernormal powers, would bring full enlightenment within a single 6 month course -- for another $3,000.

When the sidhis failed to bring enlightenment or levitation, he blamed the "impurity" of TMers lives and made a big push for celibacy and living in groups only with other meditators -- while quietly investing in "sidha land" real estate deals.

In the early 80s, he "discovered" that Western medicine had failed and only if TMers discovered Ayur Veda treatments -- priced at thousands of dollars per year -- would they ever become enlightened.

And all these little crises helped distribute the wealth around his world-wide empire.

The Indian TM movement needs an influx of cash? Suddenly there's a global need for a course in India. A faltering resort becomes available overseas at a ridiculously low price? Fine, there's an immediate need for TM Governors to travel to a Baltic nation to avert war. And so forth. (Billy Clayton even suggested that the Maharishi instituted the famous "Thursday fasts" back in the 70s when his accountant pointed out how much money this would save his courses and capitals.

Former TM teachers have talked about transporting suitcases of cash, electronic equipment, records, and other sensitive material across international borders when asked to by TM course leaders. A quick check will show that often two overseas courses are run side by side. One in a country with strong currency, while the neighbor's currency is weak. How odd.

These crises also allow the Maharishi a chance to test the loyalty of his leadership. Charlie Lutes, Jerry Jarvis, Lawrence Domash, Deepak Chopra, and other former leaders were all escorted out of the movement when they became embarrassed by the extravagant claims the Maharishi made for the "latest wave of knowledge." While those of us who stayed behind felt smug in our superior devotion to the Master -- as we bounced on our butts, ate feces-contaminated pills, and wasted our lives and fortunes on Maharishi's ever more crazy dreams.

No one should dismiss the very real dangers of biological wars and genetic manipulation. But no one should confuse these important issues with the delusions of a madman leading blindly devoted followers into isolated camps to await a holocaust.

If there's one thing we've learned from Jonestown, Aum Shinrikyo, Waco, Solar Temple, et al, it is that doomsday scenarios are absolute pressure cookers for the true believers involved.

No matter what the Maharishi's motives are -- he may after all be pure as the driven snow -- this is a very dangerous situation.

We at TranceNet have received several reports of TMers selling homes, breaking up families, and so forth to go wait out the "biological war" due within weeks.

Up until the moment that gunfire broke out at Jonestown, Jim Jones was considered a fine humanitarian -- perhaps at worst a little foolish.

(As fate would have it, the Guyana massacre happened during my Teacher Training Phase III. I remember we all held our breath when the TV anchorman announced a massacre among a religious community in Central America. Was he talking about the Maharishi's World Peace Project? Many of us had TM governor friends in Central America at that very moment, rounding to save the world from nuclear disaster.)

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John M. Knapp, Executive Director
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