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
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
- 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,
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
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,
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
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
- 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,
- Heide, Frederick J. and T.D. Borkovec. "Relaxation-induced anxiety:
mechanism and theoretical implications." Behavioral Research Therapy,
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Smith Jonathan C. Psychotherapeutic effects of
transcendental meditation with controls for expectation of relief and
daily sitting, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1976,
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
- Trumpy, Franklin D. An investigation of the
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
- Younger, J. W. Adriance and R.J. Berger. Sleep
during transcendental meditation. Perceptual Motor Skills, 40(3), June
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
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