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Transcendental Meditation: Problems with TM Research

Problems with TM Research



Listed below are excerpts from articles, books and other studies which analyze the problems with research conducted by the TM Organization. These problems include allegations of suppression of negative evidence, of fraud and of "gross scientific incompetence", lack of double-blind controls, refusal to submit raw data, failure to control for set effects, failure to control for expectancy of relief, failure to control for placebo/suggestible-prone subjects, and others.



Article entitled,
"Problems with TM Research" , by Professor of Sociology, Barry Markovsky.

Excerpts:

Asymmetry #3: Who Conducts the Research and Who Pays For It?

"Who sponsors research on TM? Mostly the TM organization. Who conducts research on TM? Almost exclusively researchers having a tremendous vested interest--material, psychological, professional and social--in the outcomes of their research.

"Historically, this state of affairs has proven to be a recipe for biased results. [Suggested reading: "Betrayers of the Truth" by William Broad and Nicholas Wade--although they over-generalize their observations to all of science.] Bringing us back to the first point, how many TM researchers would you guess have conducted studies making a serious effort to detect and characterize negative effects of TM? How much money would you guess the TM organization has invested in such research? How many grant proposals to external funding sources for carrying out such research would you guess TM researchers have submitted?"

"The best method of testing hypotheses, however, is to try your hardest to disprove them--not merely to verify them. If they survive the most stringent of tests, you can be that much more confident in their validity. So what if TM researchers never seek to disprove their claims but only to verify them?"

"The thing is, much of the TM research is very non-controversial, and the much smaller volume of potentially controversial stuff that has been published is tucked away in 3rd-rate journals (or worse). So the TM organization can point to the publications and say 'Look, we're published in prestigious, main-stream scientific journals!' Most scientists are not interested in trying to counter such hype in the court of public opinion, and most are not interested in following up the breathless claims of TM research because--quite contrary to the way the TM propaganda machine portrays things--the more controversial TM research is widely ignored (even among consciousness researchers who you would expect to be very sympathetic), and the bulk of the rest is pretty mundane from the perspective of journal readers."



Peer review analysis of the "Maharishi Effect",
Evaluating Heterodox Theories . Markovsky, Barry and Fales, Evan. The University of North Carolina Press. Published December 1997 in Social Forces Volume 76 (2):511-25

Note to text:

[12] A re-analysis of the data also would have been desirable, though not essential for our case. However, David Orme-Johnson has refused numerous requests for a copy of the raw data set.



First hand article about TM's leading researcher, Dr. Hari Sharma, lying about his funding.
"A Study in Alternative Truth" by Andrew Skolnick.

Excerpts:

On May 22, 1995, just weeks before taking early retirement from Ohio State University, where he was professor of pathology, Sharma chaired a session on Maharishi Ayur-Veda at the First International Congress on Alternative & Complementary Medicine, in Arlington, Va. During his presentation, Sharma described the many health benefits of TM, and Maharishi Ayur-Veda products and services. At the end of the session, Ridgley Ochs, a science reporter for Newsday, went up to the podium to speak with Sharma. As any good journalist would, she asked him if he had received funding from the company that sells the products described in his report.

"No," said Sharma.

"Then who funded your research?" Ochs asked. "I receive funding from the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Foundation," he replied. Outraged by this obfuscation, I jumped in: "Yes, and Maharishi Ayur-Veda Foundation owns MAPI [Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International], Inc, which is the company that sells the products described in your report."

"I do not know about that," Sharma said. "You certainly do know about that," I said. "You have a million dollar grant from the Maharishi Ayur-Veda Foundation, which owns the marketing company MAPI."

How do I know he "knows about that"? Because I have a copy of the results of Ohio State University's investigation of conflict of interest charges that were brought against Sharma in 1991. In the report, a university's Committee of Inquiry admonished Sharma for not disclosing a major grant from the foundation that owns the company that markets the products he studies.

Sharma looked surprised. He took a step forward to read my press badge, which read: "Andrew Skolnick, The Skeptical Inquirer" -- the publication for which I was covering the conference. Turning to his followers, he said, "Oh, this is that journalist who thinks there is something wrong in taking money for research."

"No, I do not think it is wrong for a researcher to take money," I said. "I think it is wrong for a researcher to take money and then to lie to journalists that they don't."

In response to a complaint from within the university community, Ohio State University appointed a Committee of Inquiry to investigate charges that Sharma misled the editors and readers of the Journal of the American Medical Association in his article on Maharishi Ayur-Veda, published in May 22/29, 1991. The committee concluded that Sharma did not deliberately mislead the scientific community, although it admonished him for not disclosing that he is funded by the foundation that owns the company that sells the products he studies.

The Committee of Inquiry said it was "troubled" by Sharma's failure to disclose receiving a [$1.2 million dollar] research grant [with the university receiving an additional $1 million] from Maharishi Ayur-Veda Foundation, which owns the company that sells the products Sharma touted in his JAMA article, "since the JAMA form [that Sharma signed] explicitly called for such disclosure."

A University of Ohio source says that, as a result of this affair, the university has adopted ethical guidelines that more clearly define such conduct as improper and unacceptable.

Did Sharma learn anything from the admonition? Apparently not. Approximately 5 months after the committee's admonition, the journal Psychosomatic Medicine received a manuscript from Sharma and Charles N. Alexander, Ph.D., Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, entitled: "Research Review of Maharishi Ayur-Veda: A Multi-Strategy System of Natural Medicine. The article states that the work was supported by grants from the Lancaster and Maharishi Ayur-Veda Foundations, but does not inform the editors or readers that MAF owns the company that sells the cure-alls touted in the review. One of the outside peer reviewers pointed out this hidden financial connection and urged rejection. The journal did not publish the report.

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Letter from
Dr. Dennis Roark , former MIU Dean of Faculty and head of Physics Department, to Pat Ryan in Philadelphia, PA. From TM-EX Newsletter, Spring 1992

Excerpts:

"During my time at MIU, I had occasion to examine the scientific claims of the movement, to interact with those who had reportedly performed the research, to study the metaphysics, philosophy and religion associated with the TM technique, and to work with the founder of the movement and the college. It is my certain belief that the many scientific claims both to factual evidences of unique, beneficial effects of TM and to theoretical relationships between the experience of TM and physics are not only without any reasonable basis, but are in fact in many ways fraudulent."

"Confirmed to me by investigators at MIU was the suppression of negative evidence that these investigators had collected. Strong bias was present in selecting only data favourable 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 any hearing. The 'scientific research' is without objectivity and is at times simply untrue."


Study:
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).

Excerpts:

"The T.M. movement only reports on positive effects of transcendental meditation, a rather different story has become known through parents and ex-meditators."

"Also, medicinal, psychological and sociological research ... is instigated by the 'Maharishi European Research University' (MERU), and is conducted mostly by scientists who themselves belong to the T.M. movement. ...Possible negative effects, are either not mentioned at all in the investigations, or are barely mentioned."

"The uncountable investigations, (billed as scientific) which the T.M. movement has instigated or have been conducted by active T.M. meditators, show the determination of the movement to keep up the image of 'the scientifically proven relaxation technique with a high therapeutic success rate', and to deny the general public an insight into the completely different meaning of T.M. for the 'insider'."

"It was only after negative changes which parents observed in their children, or married partners in their meditating spouse, that the initial favorable disposition of the parent/married partner became unfavorable. This shows that the claim made by the T.M. movement that the critical stance of parents has its roots in 'generation conflict' is without any foundation and obscures the actual state of affairs."

"A drastic alteration in the field of social intercourse becomes clear to the onlooker, as well as such changes occurring in school and career performance. Also documented are changes in the mental and physical health of the meditator."

"This major reduction in positive characteristics stands in total opposition to the promises made by the T.M. movement. ...It is a deliberate deception for the T.M. movement to claim greater achievements and social activity for meditators. ...The social behavior of meditators and the attitude of the T.M. movement towards social life exhibit sect-like tendencies, which have nothing to do with the relaxation technique presented to the public by the movement. The personality profile once more gives the trend of changes in all three groups: there is no development of personal attributes in the sense of an improvement in those attributes. Various attributes, like the emotions and a social responsibility, lose all importance throughout. T.M., however, promises an improvement of and increase in these attributes. Most strongly affected are the perception of reality, openness, and the ability to make critical evaluations."

"The mainly positive experiences in the earlier stages (pictures, feelings of happiness) are replaced in time - according to reports of the ex-meditators - by terrifying images and feelings of fear or anguish. This is known to the T.M. movement. The theory states that 'unstressing' is taking place during these conditions. It is advised that one should meditate more intensively. Only when all of that stress was released, would pleasant experiences again be had.

"Over 70% of those in our study had difficulties, statements made on tape list these difficulties mainly as being: problems with sleeping, anguish, increasing pain in the head, stomach, and back, (compare with section 6 of this chapter), problems with concentration, hallucinations, feelings of isolation, depression, over-sensitivity, and instability.

"It is significant that the percentage is high in each group. This shows that even the so-called easy meditation (2x20) can lead to serious problems. This is confirmed by comparing the ordinary meditators with sidhas, T.M. teachers, and governors. 70% of ordinary meditators had experienced difficulties as a result of the meditation, 82% of insiders."



Sworn affirmation from
Attorney Anthony D. DeNaro , former Professor of Economics and Business Law and Director of Grants Administration at MIU. July 16, 1986. Presented to Judge Gasch of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia as part of Kropinsky civil suit, #85-2848.

Excerpts:

"9. The deliberate pattern and practice of fraud, deceit and misrepresentation by knowledgeable, aware, educated and intelligent people, including lawyers, Tarabilda and Druker in tax (IRS) matters, corruption of the curricula, inter alia, is very pertinent and material to understanding and gaining some insight into how and why the practices of the defendants was able to continue without interruption for so long. It also suggests why they are seeking to cover-up a very substantial and injurious pattern of deception, fraud and corruption:

"They demonstrate, for example, that:

"d) Scienter [informed or guilty knowledge] was clearly present in the frauds, but was justified in the name of a higher ideology, which presumably means they can lie, come into a federal court, and commit perjury;

"e) More significantly, an understanding of their wilful deceits and machinations in these areas, provides a useful insight and perspective into the more serious areas resulting in psychological and physical injury to very vulnerable, and easily manipulated young men and women;

"f) If it can be demonstrated that the zealous, and often fanatical, educated people, including lawyers associated with the TM cult, are willing, even eager, to engage in an active, deliberate, systematic pattern and practice of major fraud involving hundreds of millions of dollars against the federal government, it might reasonably be inferred that they are willing to deceive and injure (if necessary) innocent and very vulnerable private citizens, i.e., young students;"

"11. I have read an affidavit consisting of one and a half pages, sworn and subscribed to by Professor John W. Patterson on June 30, 1986, and agree with his observations and conclusions.

"At para 3, page 1, Professor Patterson suggests more than 'gross scientific incompetence' is involved and believes the misrepresentations are the result of 'dishonesty, deliberate deceit and fraud.' I agree unequivocally."

"12. The deceptions are intricate, fairly sophisticated, intentional, and are mainly designed to sell or market TM. ..."


Affidavit of
John W. Patterson , member of the Iowa Academy of Sciences and consultant to Committee for the Scientific Investigation of claims of the Paranormal. Notarized June 30, 1986 in the state of Iowa.

Excerpts:

"Many of the claims issued by the TM organization in their news releases and recruitment campaigns are not just badly mistaken and ill-conceived; they are worse. No competent scientist, on the basis of present scientific understanding, could seriously subscribe to the TM views. Mass meditation cannot be used to lessen the force of gravity, to effect levitation, to modify weather patterns, or to lessen social and economic stresses in distant places. Religious believers often hold such views, but only for religious reasons - never on the basis of scientific findings. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that natural forces exist which are capable of such "actions through a distance" and indeed the law of the conservation of energy implies such things are impossible. If no educated scientists were among the leadership of the TM movement or on the faculty at MIU, one could write such absurd claims off to mere incompetence. However, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi professes to hold a degree in physics and there have been at least two Ph.D. holders in the MIU Physics Department alone over the years. This, along with other considerations, causes me to rule out the charges of gross scientific incompetence and opt instead for the charges of dishonesty, deliberate deceit and or fraud."

"Much of the research reported by MIU involves elaborate procedures but also involves what might be called 'cleverly poor' experimental controls and a great deal of unjustified 'leaping' to favorable conclusions. Herein lies another source of circumstantial evidence for the fraud or deliberate deceit mentioned above. Were the experimental mistakes and errors of judgment due mainly to naivete or mere incompetence, one would find about as many unfavorable results as favorable ones as regards the alleged benefits of TM and the so-called Sidhi and "Maharishi" effect(s). But one finds nothing of the sort. In virtually all their reports, the results tend to to never be negative, but are almost always cited as "statistically significant" confirmations of their hypotheses. So one-sided is the tally, in fact, that one may justifiably question the honesty if not the competence of the TM researchers."


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

"Claims of the TM effects are neither unique nor special but are the consequences of procedures associated with suggestion, placebo reactions, simple relaxation, neurotic belief, and the mislabeling of vauge emotional experiences. In this book we investigate the precise psychological and social procedures by which this movement manipulates human behavior." p.7

Chapter 3. "Flaws in the TM Experiments: A Critical Evaluation"
  • Failure to Control for Set Effects
  • Failure to Control for Expectancy of Relief
  • Failure to Control for Placebo/Suggestible-Prone Subjects
  • TM is not a Unique State of Consciousness
  • The Mantra Is an Aritifact
  • No Comparitors
  • Solicited Testimonials
  • The Fasces Method or "Drown 'Em With Data Approach"
  • No Direct Verification
  • The Biased Experimenter
Chapter 5. "The TM Sell Job"
  • Proof by Numbers
  • Proof by Affirmation
  • The Einstein Sanction
  • Proof by Television
  • Proof by Lack of Disproof
  • TM Teachers: Portrait of Pseudotherapists
  • The Maharishi: Manipulator of Images

Article entitled,
"In the Name of Science" , by A. Miller. From TM-EX Newsletter, Spring 1991

Excerpts:

"They declare these studies to be scientific proof of TM's plethoric physiological and behavioral benefits. That's the hook. You won't hear at the TM lecture that the studies they quote from are performed by TM movement people or by people they sponsor (at Maharishi International University and at other universities) without using double-blind (1) or expectancy controls. Since 1973 when MIU was founded, it has been in the TM movement's direct interest to create and then flaunt this selfserving research to support increasing claims for the efficacy of TM practice and their 'ideal' SCI (2) educational system, to attract meditating proselytes, to recruit students for MIU, to enhance belief among followers and to promote Maharishi's world government and international Vedalands, his enlightenment enterprises, services and products worth $3.5 billion plus, and his plans for a quantum leap in new sales and influence (3)."

"Aside from outright fraud charged by two former MIU faculty members (4,5), such non-controlled TM studies are proven to be influenced by the tendency a priori to confirm the researcher's indoctrinated belief in TM (expectancy). Conversely, the motivation of subjects being tested who began TM on their own (pre-selection), plus the movement's subsequent influencing of those subjects to expect benefits from TM (placebo)--each of these phenomenon in a tightly controlled research study by Jonathan Smith has been proven to produce by itself the observed benefits and not the practice of TM per se (6)."

"Suppressed by the TM movement are many carefully controlled nonmovement research studies that have uncovered the following actual effects from TM, especially from its long-term practice or from its more intense daily use, called rounding: 1. No specific or broad scale special benefits. 2. Partially impaired mental faculties. 3. Depersonalization. 4. Loss of self-determination and motivation. 5. A high percentage of psychological disorders. 6. Adverse effects in social relationships. 7. Aggravation of pre-existing mental illness."


1-Double-blind denotes a comparative research experiment in which the identities of the control group are known neither to the subjects nor to the researchers.

2-The Science of Creative Intelligence, TM's philosophy.

3-David Friend, The Return of Mr. Bliss. LIFE magazine, November 1990, pp. 82.92.

4-Anthony D. Denaro, counsellor at law. Affidavit - equivalent (12 pages) Sea Cliff, NY: July 16, 1986. Former MIU legal counsel and professor of law and economics, and former MIU Director of Grants Administration.

5-Dennis E. Roark, Letter to Pat Ryan: Confirming a conversation of July 11, 1987 (2 pages). Physics Department head, Warner Pacific College, Oregon. (Dr. Roark was former head of the MIU Physics Department and former MIU Dean of Faculty.)

6-A ten page listing of such research, abstracted and with related subject documtation is available from TM-EX.



Example of faulty TMO research methodology, from Enlightenment Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology, Sept 2000; page 13, article entitled "Opening the Door to Life".

Excerpts:

"Jackie and 34 others are learning the TM technique as part of a study examining its effects on cancer patients' longevity and quality of life."

"...The only glitch in implementing the study came when we created the control group -- people who wouldn't be learning the TM technique. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that TM would improve their mental and physical health, not one person was willing to be part of the control group!"



Article entitled,
"Maharishi Ayur-Veda: guru's marketing scheme promises the world eternal 'perfect health'" , by Andrew Skolnick, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Oct. 2, 1991, vol. 266: pp. 1741-45, 1749-50

Excerpts:

"IF THE CLAIMS of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi prove true, those who follow him soon will be blessed with eternal youth, 'perfect health,' and the 'strength of an elephant.' They will be able to 'walk through walls,' make themselves 'invisible,' and 'fly through the air' without the benefit of machines. In addition, there will be no more war or crime. Automobile accidents will be a thing of the past, and even the weather will have to obey their collective consciousness. Such are the widely promoted claims of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and Maharishi Ayur-Veda, some of which were presented by authors Deepak Chopra, MD, Hari M. Sharma, MD, FRCPC, and Brihaspati Dev Triguna, in their 'Letter From New Delhi' ('Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine,' JAMA.1991;265:2633-2637).

"But according to representatives of the TM movement, the Maharishi's plan to turn earth into heaven is not just wishful thinking; they say they have more than 500 scientific studies to prove they can do it. Among them now is the 'Letter From New Delhi,' which is being pointed to throughout the TM movement as a sign that the Maharishi's plan is gaining scientific respectability. However, among many authorities on quackery and long-time watchers of this movement, the article in JAMA has brought anger and dismay. (Please see Letters, pages 1769 through 1774.) They say that Maharishi Ayur-Veda is not traditional Indian medicine, but the latest of the Maharishi's schemes to boost the declining numbers of people taking TM courses, through which the movement recruits new members. This June, members of the TM community in Fairfield, Iowa, were called to a special assembly at one of the Maharishi International University's "Golden Domes of Pure Knowledge" to celebrate the news of JAMA's publication of 'Letter From New Delhi.' The same month, The Fairfield (Iowa) Source, a monthly newspaper that is run by members of the movement, reported that the 'Letter From New Delhi' was 'the lead article in JAMA.' (The newspaper has since published a correction identifying it as the first article in the issue rather than the lead scientific article --a subtle but important difference.)

"What the newspaper didn't report was what editors of THE JOURNAL learned shortly after the article was published: The authors are involved in organizations that promote and sell the products and services about which they wrote. Despite this, they submitted a signed financial disclosure form with their manuscript indicating that they had no such affiliations. The statement, which all authors of articles accepted by JAMA must sign before publication, says: "I certify that any affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with a direct financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript (eg, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, expert testimony) are listed below. Otherwise, my signature indicates that I have no such financial interest. "The authors of the "Letter from New Delhi" listed no involvements or affiliations. Upon learning otherwise, THE JOURNAL immediately requested a full accounting from the authors, which was published as a financial disclosure correction (JAMA.1991;266:798). Although the confusing list apparently holds the record in terms of length for corrections published in THE JOURNAL, it still is incomplete. In addition to being the medical director of TM's premiere health facility, the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for Stress Management and Behavioral Medicine, in Lancaster, Mass, and a former consultant and board member for Maharishi Ayur-Veda Products International (MAPI) Inc, also in Lancaster (the sole distributor of Maharishi Ayur-Veda TM products, an extensive line of herbs, teas, oils, food supplements, incense, and devices said to prevent or treat disease and reverse aging), Chopra performs many of the unproven and expensive Maharishi Ayur-Veda services throughout the country. Indeed, he claims to have treated more than 10,000 patients with these remedies between 1985 and 1990 (Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide.New York, NY: Harmony Books; 1990:6).

"The authors misrepresented Maharishi Ayur-Veda to JAMA as Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient, traditional health care system of India, rather than a trademark for a brand of products and services marketed since 1985 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's complex network of research, educational, and commercial organizations.

"An investigation of the movement's marketing practices reveals what appears to be a widespread pattern of misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and scientific news media. This campaign appears to be aimed at earning at least the look of scientific respectability for the TM movement, as well as at making profits from sales of the many products and services that carry the Maharishi's name."

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