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Mitchell Kapor
on Maharishi, Levitation, and Freedom

Mitch KaporHere is an excerpt from an interview that originally appeared in the Summer 1994 issue of TRICYCLE: The Buddhist Review under the title "Mitchell Kapor on Dharma, Democracy, and the Information Superhighway." You will find the entire text -- with wide-ranging speculations on spirituality, freedom, and cyberculture -- at Mitchell's homepage.

Tricycle: It seems that the material you've been involved with has addressed internal and external freedom and an entrenched wariness of authoritarian rule. Is this perspective influenced or affirmed by your experience with the Maharishi? [His full name is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.]

Kapor: My dislike for authoritarian structures goes back as far as I can remember in my childhood. If I could remember past lives, I'm sure my memories would extend there too. But my experiences in Transcendental Meditation ultimately really deepened my commitment to anti-authoritarianism.

Tricycle: How did you get involved in TM?

Kapor: Well, my experience was typical for my generation. I had gotten to college in the 60's and started experimenting with marijuana and psychedelics, fairly heavily. I had some distressing experiences with LSD. Bad trips. So I stopped doing drugs and then started getting acid flashbacks. I decided to give meditation a serious try to see if that could have some calming effect. I got hooked in to TM and eventually made the decision to go through advanced training to become an initiator, an instructor.

Tricycle: How long did you stay involved with TM?

Kapor: I was involved for seven years. It all ultimately came to a head in 1976. The movement went into a new phase and Maharishi started talking about siddhis, powers, and techniques for doing levitation and other things. This created so much cognitive dissonance in me that I didn't know what to do. I had to find out if it was real or not, and I wanted to believe that it was real, but something in me said that it couldn't possibly be real. People weren't really going to levitate. So I went to Switzerland for the sixth-month course on "powers." I went and I fell apart. They were using us as experimental subjects. There was fasting involved and various austerities that come out of Hindu traditions, enemas and various bizarre food combining rituals. A lot of madness got released. After five months of this I said whatever problems I might or might not have, TM is not making them better, it is making them worse and I decided to leave. This was like leaving everything, because I had severed all of my other ties and relations: no job, no career, no marriage and no prospects. I got up in the middle of the night and walked to the train station. I felt like I was crossing from slavery into freedom, from one intolerable situation into the great unknown. By the way, no one really levitates. I fully satisfied myself as to that.

Copyright 1994, TRICYCLE: The Buddhist Review. Excerpt reprinted with permission of Mitchell Kapor.

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