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TranceNet: Abstracts of Independent Research on Transcendental Meditation

©1996 Albert B. Miller

Over the years, independent researchers have tried to verify both the specific and broad range of benefits claimed for transcendental meditation by its promoters. An early example is Herbert Benson, a Harvard medical doctor who worked with TM's Robert Keith Wallace in 1972. Benson wanted to independently verify, through a controlled study, the physiological correlates of stress reduction from the meditation, claimed by Wallace to be exclusive to the TM method. Benson published his findings in the Harvard Business Review with an article entitled, "Your Innate Asset for Combating Stress." His findings contradict Wallace's experimental results and conclusions. Others have followed Benson.

The fact that MIU and TM movement studies show mostly positive results and their portfolio does not include the independent research published in scientific literature, is reason enough to want to verify their claims. The twenty-eight independent researchers included in this document drew conclusions from their data that stand in contrast to comparable movement studies. The studies were selected on the basis of the experimental method used and researcher credentials.

Listed alphabetically, along with the independent studies below, are letters, affidavits, articles, and books (with abstracts) that shed further light on the TM movement's rationale in its use of the experimental method.

Benson, Herbert. Your innate asset for combating stress. Harvard Business Review, July-August 1974, pp49-60.
A co-researcher with TM's Robert Keith Wallace in 1972, this controlled study by Dr. Benson (a non-meditator) using eighty subjects, showed no difference in the physiological correlates of stress reduction between the practice of TM and five other relaxation response techniques. The other techniques were autogenic training, progressive relaxation, Zen meditation, hypnosis, and yoga. This study has a useful historical appendix outlining ten different relaxation response methods that have proven effective over time.

Castillo, Richard J. Depersonalization and meditation. Psychiatry; Interpersonal and Biological Processes. May 1990, pp158-168.

A study of six long term TM practitioners that reveals their acceptance of depersonalized states of existence because they were led to believe this shows spiritual growth from the TM program.

From a review of the literature on meditation and depersonalization, and interviews conducted with six meditators, this study concludes that: 1) meditation can cause depersonalization and derealization; 2) the meanings in the mind of the meditator regarding the experience of depersonalization will determine to a great extent whether anxiety is present as part of that experience; 3) there need not be any significant anxiety or impairment in social or occupational functioning as a result of depersonalization; 4) a depersonalized state can become an apparently permanent mode of functioning; 5) patients with depersonalization disorder may be treated through a process of symbolic healing -- that is, changing the meanings associated with depersonalization in the mind of the patient, thereby reducing anxiety and functional impairment; 6) panic/anxiety may be caused by depersonalization if catastrophic interpretations of depersonalization are present.

DeNaro, Anthony D. Counselor at Law. Twelve-page affidavit. Sea Cliff, New York, July 16, 1986.

Former MIU legal counsel and professor of law and economics, and former MIU director of grants administration. He describes his encounter of widespread deception and fraud at MIU. A few quotations follow:

Essentially the attitude and philosophy [at MIU] was, and, to my knowledge, is now: "anything goes". Scienter [knowledge of] was clearly present in the frauds, but was justified in the name of a higher ideology, which presumably means they can lie and commit perjury.(p3)

The deceptions are systematic and planned. My personal and professional experience over the last twelve years [in the movement] convince me that the leadership and upper echelon, for a variety of reasons, ideological and economic, has systematically and willfully deceived the federal, state and local governments, private and public funding sources and agencies, the [MIU] students, and inter alia the general public about the nature, purpose and consequence of the TM-Sidhi and the SCI [Science of Creative Intelligence] programs.(p4)

Desiraju, T. The Yoga and Consciousness Project. National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience. Bangalore, India: Omni, Nov. 1990, pp84-88.

Funded by the Indian government, a ten-year investigation by the yoga and consciousness team (headed by internationally recognized neurophysiologist T. Desiraju) was unable to identify any physiological standard for so-called enlightenment. Even meditation per se was hard to define at the Bangalore lab, claimed by Indian scientists to be the world's most sophisticated center for investigating the physiological correlates of mystical experiences.

The Bangalore lab's controlled studies displayed measurements that stand in strong contrast to TM-movement sponsored research. For example, the studies showed heart rates are as likely to increase as decrease; breath rates and skin resistance were just as eccentric; TM subjects were drowsier than subjects using other forms of meditation; their EEG's showed weaker alpha and theta waves than other meditation techniques; physiological correlates were consistently unpredictable with TM showing great variability from session to session.

French, Alfred P. et al. Transcendental meditation, altered reality testing and behavioral change. A case report. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1975, p55.

This paper presents the case of a thirty-nine year old woman who experienced altered reality testing and behavior several weeks after initiation into the TM program. It presents important evidence for a causal relationship between the practice of TM and her abnormal behavior.

The Various Implications Arising from the Practice of Transcendental Meditation: An empirical analysis of pathogenic structures as an aid in counseling. Bensheim, Germany: (Institut fur Jugend Und Gesellschaft, Ernst-Ludwig-Strasse 45, 6140.) Institute for Youth and Society, 1980 (188 pgs).

The German study turned up by far the most adverse effects experienced by TM practitioners. Some excerpts follow:

4.3.3 TM has a detrimental effect on the decision making process. There is a loss of self-determination and a turning toward TM authorities for guidance. Studied facial expressions, bodily posture, voice and handwriting all point to the fact that the total personality is gravely altered under TM.

4.6.6 TM can cause mental illness or at least prepare the way for the onset of mental illness; that psychological illness already present before TM was considerably worsened after starting TM; that mind-set conditions can develop leading to depersonalization.

5.6.4 In cases studied, TM caused a far reaching alteration of the view of reality which adversely effects social relationships, motivation and the drive to achieve -- to the point that practical work becomes intolerable to the meditator.

Glueck, Bernard and Charles F. Stroebel. Meditation in the treatment of psychiatric illness. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (722 pages), edited by Deane Shapiro and Roger Walsh. New York: Alden Publications, 1984, p150.

This study of 110 subjects discloses that the release of repressed subconscious impressions [stress] from the TM practice can be handled by some but has also been seriously destabilizing for others.

Hassan, Steven. Combatting Cult Mind Control. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 1988.

Heide, Frederick J. and T.D. Borkovec. Relaxation-induced anxiety enhancement due to relaxation training. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1983, p171.

Heide, Frederick J. and T.D. Borkovec. "Relaxation-induced anxiety: mechanism and theoretical implications." Behavioral Research Therapy, 1984, pp1-12.

These two papers by Heide and Borkovec disclose that 54 percent of anxiety-prone subjects tested experienced increased anxiety during TM-like mantra meditation.

Holmes, David S, Sheldon Solomon, Bruce M. Cappo, Jeffery L. Greenberg. Effects of transcendental meditation versus resting on physiological and subjective arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1983, pp1245-1252.

Dr. Holmes et al at the University of Kansas were unable to replicate the effect of TM on physiological variables such as heart rate, breath rate, skin resistance, blood pressure and blood lactate levels claimed for TM by movement researchers.

Holmes, David S. Meditation and somatic arousal reduction. American Psychologist, January 1984, pp1-10. Ensuing discussion follows in four more issues: June 1985, pp717-731; June 1986, pp712-713; September 1986, pp1007-1009; September 1987, pp879-881.

An exhaustive TM-research review and further controlled testing demonstrated that TM produces no more physical relaxation than just sitting with the eyes closed. His findings here stand in sharp contrast to widely held beliefs about the effects of TM, which are based on TM-movement-controlled experimental tests.

Between meditation (TM) and just-resting subjects, no reliable differences were found by Holmes in plasma renin or aldosterone, plasma adrenaline, growth hormone, testosterone, norepinephrin or epinephrine, plasma lactate, theronine, serine, asparagine, glutamic, glutamine, glycine, alanine, cirtulline, valine, isoleucine, leucine, or tyrosine. Meditating subjects were found to have higher levels of phenylalanine that resting subjects, a finding which reflects high arousal in meditators.

Kaffman, Mordecai. The use of transcendental meditation to promote social progress in Israel" The Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1986, p135.

A scathing criticism of TM's "International Peace Project in the Middle East" which appeared in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in Dec. 1988. The methods of TM Peace Project researchers are dismissed as unscientific, and their claims of positive results in the Israeli context are deemed unconvincing, anecdotal, and based on a conceptual error. The TM theory of the "unified field" is stated to be no more credible than was Blondot's 1913 claim_supported by many papers from his collaborators -- that metals give off N-rays.

Kesterson, John and Noah F. Clinch. Metabolic rate, respiratory exchange ratio, and apneas during (TM) meditation. The American Journal of Physiology, March 1989. p637.

A controlled, in-depth investigation into the effects of TM practice on respiration and metabolism, indicating that TM produces no deeper state of rest than from just sitting with eyes closed, even in advanced practitioners, and that the TM practice does not produce the hypometabolic state as claimed by MIU's Robert Keith Wallace.

They also discovered a decrease in respiratory exchange ratio in meditators during TM not observed in controls (i.e., an increase of carbon dioxide). Although this research was conducted at MIU, Kesterson and Clinch maintained their objectivity. Unlike most work by TM-movement researchers, this particular study was published in a major journal.

Lazarus, Arnold A. Meditation: the problems of any unimodal technique. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (722 pages). Edited by Deane Shapiro and Roger Walsh. New York: Aldin Publications, 1984, p691.
Lazarus, Arnold A. Psychiatric problems precipitated by transcendental meditation. Psychological Reports, 1976, pp601-602.

Based on clinical experience from these two studies, Lazarus shows that serious psychiatric problems can ensue from the practice of TM. He points out that TM is no panacea. He concludes that the TM practice can be used in some cases, but that it is clearly contraindicated in other cases.

Lifton, Robert J. Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Chapel Hill, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1989 (510 pages).

Last published in 1964, this is a newly reissued edition of the classic textbook and case study of the victims of thought reform and elements of the thought reform process. Chapter 22 outlines eight themes present in the sociological environment of thought reform which in time become internalized by victims, who in turn reinforce the themes socially. Many cults exhibit fewer than all eight themes. In the TM movement and at MIU, however, all eight themes are found to be richly developed.

Michaels, R.R., M.J. Huber and D.S. McCann. Science 192, 1976, pp1242-1243.

A study of the concentration of plasma epinephrine, norephinephrine, as well as lactate. In comparing twelve TM practitioners and twelve subjects as controls who merely rested, they detected no statistically different results. The question is raised whether the benefits are due to TM or sleep. The study suggests that meditation does not induce a unique metabolic state but is seen biochemically as a resting state.

Otis, Leon S. Adverse effects of transcendental meditation. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (722 pages). Edited by Deane Shapiro and Roger Walsh. New York: Aldin Publications, 1984, p204.

This study by Otis at the Stanford Research Institute involving 574 subjects revealed that the longer a person practiced TM the more adverse mental effects were recorded; that 70 percent of subjects recorded mental disorders of one degree or another.

Pagano, RR, R.M. Stivers and S. Warrenburg. Science 191, Jan. 21, 1976, p308.

Study of EEG's of five TM practitioners noted that meditation involved some sleep and that it gives rise to quite different states from day to day and from practitioner to practitioner. They compared EEG records made during meditation with those made during naps taken at the same time of day. The range of states observed during meditation does not support the view that meditation produces a single unique state of consciousness. He questions whether the benefits are due to TM or simply sleep.

Pagels, Heinz R. New York Academy of Sciences. An affidavit dated July 1, 1986.

Dr. Pagels was Executive Director of the New York Academy of Sciences when he wrote this opinion:

The views expressed in the [TM] literature that purport to find a connection between the recent ideas of theoretical physics and states of consciousness are false and profoundly misleading. No qualified physicist that I know would claim to find such a connection without knowingly committing fraud.

Although the word "science" is much abused, it continues to imply an adherent logic, the clear presentation of assumptions and deductions, and the experimental method. This [the Science of Creative Intelligence] is not science.

Persinger, Michael A, Norman J. Carrey and Lynn A. Suess. TM and Cult Mania (198 pages). North Quincy, Massachusetts: Christopher Publishing House, 1980.

Critiques TM-movement research up until 1980; alerts the reader to question the validity of more recent movement research; discloses that the state of cosmic consciousness described by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi shares characteristics of some personality disorders.

Persinger, Michael A. Enhanced incidence of 'the sensed presence' in people who have learned to meditate; support for the right hemispheric intrusion hypothesis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1992, 75, pp1308-1310.

If the "sensed presence" is a transient intrusion of the right hemispheric equivalent of the left hemispheric (and highly linguistic) sense of self, then any process that facilitates interhemispheric electrical coherence should enhance these experiences. As predicted, the "ego-alien intrusion" (sensed presence) factor was specifically and significantly elevated in 221 people who had learned to meditate (65 to 70% were involved in transcendental meditation) compared to 860 nonmeditators.

Experiences of sensed presence were more frequent in female than in male meditators and were particularly evident in left-handers who had learned to meditate. The effect size suggests that learning a meditation technique is contraindicated for subpopulations, such as borderline, schizotypal, or dissociative personalities who display very fragile self-concepts.

Persinger, Michael A. Transcendental meditation and general meditation were associated with enhanced complex partial epileptic-like signs: evidence for 'cognitive' kindling? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1992.

Personal Philosophy Inventories of 221 university students who had learned to meditate (about 65% to 70% practiced transcendental meditation) were compared to 860 nonmeditators. Meditators displayed a significantly wider range of complex partial epileptic-like signs. Experience of vibrations, hearing one's name called, paranormal phenomena, profound meaning from reading poetry/prose and religious phenomenology were particularly frequent among meditators. Numbers of years of TM practice were significantly correlated with the incidence of complex partial signs and sensed presences but not with control, olfactory, or perseverative experiences. The results support the hypothesis that procedures which promote cognitive kindling enhance complex partial epileptic-like signs.

Pollack, A.A., D.B. Case, M.A. Weber and J.H. Laragh. Limitations of transcendental meditation in the treatment of essential hypertension. Lancet 1(8002):71-3, January 8, 1977.

Twenty hypertensive patients participating in a professionally supervised program of transcendental meditation showed no significant change in blood pressure after a 6-month study. Although there were small reductions in systolic blood pressure and in pulse rate early in the trial, these changes had disappeared by 6 months. At no time did the mean diastolic pressure fall significantly. Plasma- renin activity did not change during the study. It is concluded that while the general well being experience d by most patients may provide a useful adjunct to conventional treatments, it is unlikely that transcendental meditation contributes directly towards the lowering of blood pressure.

Roark, Dennis E. Letter to Pat Ryan confirming a telephone conversation (2 pages), dated July 11, 1987. Warner Pacific College, Oregon.

Dr. Roark was former head of the MIU physics department and former MIU dean of faculty. A letter excerpt follows:

Confirmed to me by investigators at MIU was the suppression of negative evidence that these investigator had collected. Strong bias was present in selecting only data favorable to a conclusion that was made prior to the data collection. Because of the strong authoritarian (essentially cultic) aspects of the movement, only results supporting ideas generated by the movement leadership could receive a hearing.

Royer-Bounouar, P. A. The Transcendental Meditation Technique: a New Direction for Smoking Cessation Programs. Ph.D. thesis: D, MIU, 1989, T735,494, in the MIU library.

In this study, 60 percent of smokers who began TM and were still practicing TM twice daily after 20 months, quit smoking. TM may help someone to quit smoking if the individual stays with the practice for 20 months. Data also revealed that 20 months after 505 individuals began TM, 29.7 percent were no longer meditating, 38.2 percent were occasional practitioners, 13.3 percent practiced TM once a day, and only 18.8 percent still practiced TM twice daily as instructed.

Some people have long suspected that it is inaccurate for the TM movement to base assertions regarding the number of people who practice TM on the number of people who have been instructed.

Singer, Margaret T. and Richard Ofshe. Thought reform programs and the production of psychiatric casualties. Psychatric Annals, April 1990, p188.

Case example is "Kirk," a person who practiced TM. However, this fact is not mentioned in the article.

Skolnick, Andrew A. Maharishi Ayur-Veda: guru's marketing scheme promises the world eternal 'perfect health.' Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), October 2, 1991, Vol. 266, No. 13, pp1739-1750.

Smith Jonathan C. Psychotherapeutic effects of transcendental meditation with controls for expectation of relief and daily sitting, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1976, pp630-637.

A well-balanced, landmark study. Using equivalent expectancy controls, Smith clearly demonstrates that a person's predisposition toward anxiety (trait anxiety) is not reduced by the practice of TM per se, but that it can be reduced by sitting with close d eyes in conjunction with an expectation of relief.

Stanford Research Institute. Adverse effects of transcendental meditation.

See Leon Otis above.

Teb-ecis, A.K. A controlled study of the EEG during transcendental meditation: comparison with hypnosis. Folia Psychiatr Neruol, Japan 29(4):305-13, 1975.

A controlled, quantitative investigation of the electroencephalogram (EEG) and transcendental meditation (TM) revealed that EEG changes during TM were rarely as pronounced or consistent as previous reports suggest. There was considerable variation between subjects, some displaying no EEG changes at all during TM compared with an equal period of nonmeditation. Any changes that did occur in a particular individual were not necessarily repeated in a subsequent session. A comparison of mean EEG parameters of the experimental group revealed no consistent significant differences between meditation and nonmeditation. The EEG characteristics of the group of meditators were similar to those of a group of subjects experienced in self-hypnosis.

Trumpy, Franklin D. An investigation of the reported effect of transcendental meditation on the weather. Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 1983-84, pp143-148.

TM movement research on the effect of mass meditation on the weather was found to be grossly misrepresented.

Woolfolk, R.L. Psychophysiological correlates of meditation. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 32(10): pp1326-1333.

The scientific research that has investigated the physiological changes associated with meditation as it is practiced by adherents of Indian yoga, transcendental meditation, and Zen Buddhism have not yielded a thoroughly consistent, easily replicable pattern of responses.

Younger, J. W. Adriance and R.J. Berger. Sleep during transcendental meditation. Perceptual Motor Skills, 40(3), June 1975, pp953-954.

Electroencephalograms (EEGs) were recorded during transcendental meditation periods for eight experienced meditators. The records, scored blind, showed that all but two meditators spent considerable portions of their meditation periods in unambiguous physiological sleep.

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