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Shirley Harrison Letter

Shirley Harrison is a writer and reporter. In the late 1980's, she investigated various religious/spiritual that lay outside of mainstream religions, as well as their critics in the anti-cult movement. The result of her investigation was a book,"Cults:" The Battle for God (1990, Christopher Helm, London, written with Sally Evemy).

She writes in her Preface "My aim, as I set out, is understanding—not judgement." (p. 4). "I went to look for the good—in order to assess the truth about the bad in those movements branded 'cult'" (p. 1).

Her letter, reproduced below, is her assessment of the Transcendental Meditation program, its organization, and people. The letter is addressed to Peter Warburton, one of the leaders of the TM organization in Britain.

Statement from the WORD TEAM
5th January, 1990
 

Dear Mr. Warburton,

As you know, I was commissioned by the publishers Christopher Helm to write a book which appeared last year, "Cults - the Battle for God". This was the first non-academic agnostic appraisal of some of the fringe spiritual movements - setting them in a historical perspective.

In the course of our research, my colleague Sally Evemy and I visited a great variety of the groups which have come to be called "Cults" and talked with dozens of people, at all levels of involvement, who have found comfort from them, as well as their critics in the anti-cult movement.

From our experience we found no evidence of harm resulting from the practice of TM or Ayurveda in Britain. On the contrary, almost all those we talked to were pleased and continuing to practise what they had learned. It was the only one of our chosen subjects in which we had great difficulty finding case histories to reflect the "flip side" of the story. In fact. of all the new movements TM at its simplest level was possibly the only system that held any personal interest for us.

It is not a religion - except in the sense that it tries to offer a lifestyle and spiritual dimension to people of all faiths.

It is not cheap but no one is compelled to spend; any deep involvement or long term commitment is voluntary and appears to be beneficial for those who believe in it. There may well be some for whom AV health does not work - not everyone responds to acupuncture either.

There were some aspects of the ideology and organisation with which we could quarrel. So there are in many mainstream movements and alternative health programmes.

We found the British organisers sincere, open and dedicated in their philosophy. Although there are some acknowledged Hindu roots, as there are in many western belief systems, TM is not a Hindu missionary movement nor does it seek to convert.

We met Jewish and Roman Catholic practitioners.

I am quite happy for you to quote these observations.

With all good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Shirley Harrison

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