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Societal Effects: Scholarly Exchanges on the Maharishi Effect

The Issue: Have critics disproved the Maharishi Effect research and theory?

The Evidence:

The Maharishi Effect is the observable fact of improved quality of life in the entire society when 1% or more of the population practices the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) or a group of as little as the √1% practices this technique plus the advanced Transcendental Meditation Sidhi program. First discovered in December 1974 when it was found that crime rate decreased in 1% cities, there are now over 50 empirical studies on the Maharishi Effect. This research is of the highest quality in the social sciences because it has used public data sources, state-of-the-art analytic techniques, and independent review boards to oversee the research process. See Summary of Key Studies. 

These data seriously challenge the basic assumption of current social sciences that people only interact directly through sensory/behavioral channels. They indicate that we all interact and influence each other at a distance with no apparent physical connections between us. Key elements of the theory of the Maharishi Effects are that we are all connected on the level of the unified field of natural law, which can be accessed through the Transcendental Meditation program as Transcendental Consciousness, the simplest, most fundamental level of awareness.  Experience of Transcendental Consciousness/unified field has been shown to increase coherence and integration on all levels of individual life. This individual development creates coherence in the larger society, due to the principle that the coherent elements of society have a stronger influence than the incoherent elements.

It is natural and important for scientists to challenge new findings and try to unearth mundane explanations for the results before they are willing to expand the old theories to incorporate the new results. The following are scholarly exchanges on the research and theory.

Table of Contents

Critical Exchange 1. This exchange addresses technical research issues, including reverse causation, statistical methodology, lag structure, robustness checks, and randomization.

Original research paper: Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chandler H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812. Summary of the Study

Critics: Schrodt P. Methodological critique of "International peace project in the Middle East". Journal of Conflict Resolution 1990;34:756-768.
Duval R. TM or not TM? Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):813-817.

Reply to critics: Orme-Johnson, David W., Charles N. Alexander, and John L. Davies. 1990. The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field: Reply to a methodological critique. Journal of Conflict Resolution 34:756–768.

Critical Exchange 2. This exchange shows that various cultural/political events proposed by the critics do not explain the results of a key study on the Maharishi Effect,, as indicated by simple inspection of the published data and by various critical statistical analyses.

Original research paper:
Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chander H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812.

Critics: Fales, E., & Markovsky, B. (1997). Evaluating heterodox theories. Social Forces, 76, 511–525.

Reply to critics: Orme-Johnson DW, Oates RM. A field-theoretic view of consciousness: reply to critics. Journal of Scientific Exploration 2009 23(2):139-166. pdf of paper

Critical Exchange 3. Robert Parks criticism of a high profile research paper on the Maharishi Effect is found to be superficial, highly polemical, and seriously flawed. The reply illustrates how prediction and control of potentially confounding factors is achieved in research in this field.

Original research paper: Hagelin JS, Rainforth M.V., Orme-Johnson DW, Cavanaugh KL, Alexander CN, Shatkin SF, et al. "Effects of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program on preventing violent crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June–July 1993." Social Indicators Research 1999; 47(2):153-201.

Critic. Park, RL. 2000a. Voodoo Science and the Belief Gene. The Skeptical Inquirer, Sept/Oct: 24-29.
Park, RL. 2000b. Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. New York: Oxford University Press.

Reply to critic. Rainforth, M. Rebuttal of Voodoo Science. Available at http://istpp.org/crime_prevention/voodoo_rebuttal.html

Critical Exchange 4. This Harvard University doctoral dissertation by Carla Brown finds that scientists, politicians and the press usually react emotionally rather that rationally to research in this field.

Original research paper: Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chander H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812.

Study of the reactions to the research. Brown, CL.  Overcoming barriers to use of promising research among elite Middle East policy groups. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality,17(1), 489-546. Download a pdf of the paper.

Critical Exchange 5. In this exchange, the physicist Victor Stenger attacks the theoretical foundations of the Maharishi Effect, but he misses the target by his misunderstanding the theory.  David Scharf’s scholarly treatment of the subject documents the long history of the philosophical and scientific debate on how to integrate spirit and consciousness with the emerging scientific worldview. He shows that the comprehensive knowledge of consciousness from Maharishi coupled with a deep understanding of modern physics by John Hagelin marks
a profound phase transition in the history of science.

Original theoretical papers: Hagelin, J.S. (1987), “Is consciousness the unified field? A field theorist's perspective.” Modern Science and Vedic Science (1): 29-87.
Hagelin, J.S. (1989), “Restructuring Physics from its Foundation in light of Maharishi’s Vedic Science.” Modern Science and Vedic Science (3).

Critic: Stenger, V. (2009) Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness. (New York: Prometheus Books).


Reply to critic. Scharf D. Pseudoscience and Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods: Mistaken, Misinformed and Misleading.

Scholars Express Positive Views Towards the Maharishi Effect This link takes you to a sampling of appreciations of the soundness of the empirical evidence and profundity of the theory of the Maharishi Effect as expressed by scholars who have looked into it deeply.

International Peace Project in the Middle East (IPPME): Methodological Issues Raised by Reviewers and Critics

Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chander H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812. Summary of the Study (click here )

The issue of reverse causation.  One of the reviewers of IPPME wrote:

 “... one may conjecture that instead of the TM-Sidhi technique influencing conflict in Lebanon, the level of conflict in Lebanon may have led the participants to hurry down to the hotel and meditate at the first sign of violence across the boarder.” 3, p. 815

This same issue was also raised in a published critique. “The second problem is the possibility of reverse causality: the effect causing the treatment rather than vice versa.” 4, p. 749. The IPPME authors responded by giving five reasons why reverse causation could not have been a factor.

“One important point about such an explanation that has been overlooked is that the relationship between the TM and TM-Sidhi group size and war intensity was inverse. One would have to make the counterintuitive assumption that when the meditators heard that the war increased, they were ungenerously motivated to stay home that day rather than join the effort to create coherence; only when they heard that the war decreased were they motivated to participate in the group. Even if we assume that the meditators were so perversely motivated, this scenario is unlikely for five additional reasons. First, the participants came from all over Israel, and the number of "drop ins" from the immediate Jerusalem area was quite small. 1, p. 804). Second, group meditations were held in the morning at 7 a.m., and in the afternoon at 4 p.m. Most of the fighting in Lebanon at that time occurred in the late afternoon and in the evening. Thus, in practice, the 0 lag relationship indicates a leading relationship of the group size on the war variable by several hours. Hence reverse causation is unlikely because group meditations took place before most conflict events for the day. Third, radio reports of daily crime, accidents, fires, and so on would be far too sketchy to influence meditators' participation in the group, yet there was a clear relationship between group size and these variables. Fourth, the critique overlooked an empirical manipulation performed by the researchers to address the issue of causality: "During the 13-day 'experiment within an experiment,' August 15-27, group size was experimentally raised to a high level (mean of 197.1) according to a preassigned schedule independent of the ongoing level of fighting". 1, p. 805. We reported that the mean number of war deaths during this period was 1.5 compared to 33.7 for the thirteen-day periods immediately prior and subsequent to the experimental period.

“Finally, our paper empirically addressed the question of reverse causality for all variables by the use of transfer functions or cross-correlation analyses. The cross-correlation function showed the correlations of the independent and dependent variables over ten daily lags in both directions. Contrary to what would be expected in the event of reverse causality, none of the dependent variables led the independent variable. Supporting a causal interpretation, there was consistent evidence of the independent variable leading the dependent variable. 1, p. 804. This finding also suggests that the results were not spurious because the chance expectation would be for as many cross-correlations in one direction as the other.” 2, pp. 761-762.

The issue of selection of model structure. A critic wrote that “The Box-Jenkins technique does not impose a theoretically justified stochastic structure on the data; rather it allows for extremely flexible adjustments to account for ‘noise,’ so the likelihood of finding significant correlations by chance is high.” 4, p. 750. The IPPME authors responded “...our results were consistently significant using several different methods of analysis: impact assessment analysis with multiple independent variables, cross-correlation and transfer function analysis, and the analysis of the thirteen-day experiment within an experiment.” The IPPME authors addressed the issue of model structure from three different approaches, the econometric tradition, the use of the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) as an objective means of selecting the best model, and the use of Liu’s linear transfer function approach.

The econometric tradition of modeling time series.  The IPPME authors wrote:

“The issue is: What constitutes the best model and will the results be robust for different specifications of the model? "Best" for time-series analysts from the econometric tradition means simple models that have interpretable parameters (e.g., weekly, quarterly, or annual cycles). This school of thought warns against "spike hunting," that is, modeling uninterpretable quirks in the data that may show up as significant spikes in the autocorrelation function (e.g.,5. We followed this school and presented the simplest adequate models (adequate means that the joint probability of the autocorrelations in the data is insignificant after the model has been applied). The very simple autoregressive 1 model (AR 1) was quite adequate for war deaths, war intensity, and the composite indices for the war in Lebanon, Israel, and the overall index. 1, pp. 793-94, 799). This was not a complex model with uninterpretable components that might spuriously create structure in the data.” 2, p. 762.

Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) approach. “Another school of thought defines "best" according to strictly mathematical criteria. The AIC provides an objective criterion of the best predictor with the fewest number of parameters.6 This approach may include parameters with no obvious a priori interpretation, if they improve the model. The AIC takes joint probabilities into account by penalizing for adding extra parameters. It has been found to be a criterion of optimal model choice within a framework of predictive inference, for choosing a model most likely to describe another sample of the same process. The AIC was found by Larimore (who coauthored our original article) to provide the optimal balance between the opposing goals of parsimony and model fit when evaluating model order and model structure 7 8. The best model is the one that minimizes the AIC.” 2, p. 763.

The IPPME authors presented a table of the results for 14 different noise models, which showed that the intervention was statistically significant for all 14 specifications of the noise model. The IPPME authors wrote:

“The Table shows that the results were not due to chance because of "extremely flexible adjustments to account for the “noise” (Schrodt, 1990). The results are clearly apparent for all models, and become even stronger as the data is modeled more closely. This is because the additional parameters in the noise model account for more of the variance in the data so that the standard error becomes smaller, increasing the t. This pattern of increasing significance of the results for models with lower AICs is what one would expect if a signal were present that became clearer as the noise was reduced. Note that this procedure uses strictly objective decision rules for fitting the model which protect against self-deception in model selection. The AIC specifically takes joint probabilities into account. It penalizes for the number of parameters, so that in estimating their effect, only the ones that lower the AIC are significant and are therefore included in the model. With the AIC, when a parameter is added, the significance level is automatically adjusts to a more stringent level, thus accounting for joint probabilities (7).” 2, p. 763. The significance of the effects of the MTUF on reducing the war for the best model was p<.0001.

Liu’s linear transfer function (LTF) approach. The IPPME authors wrote: “The LTF has been shown to outperform Box and Jenkins's method in identifying transfer functions.9 Simulation studies show LTF to be especially effective in detecting "nonspurious" relationships. Reanalysis with the LTF identified significant transfer function effects on the war index at the same lags as previously found; for lags 0 and 5, the results were t(49) = -5.81,p < .0001, and t(49) = -2.98, p = .002, respectively. This analysis provides further evidence that results were not spurious.”2, p. 764.  

The issue of lag structure. A critic wrote: “The lag structure resulting from the analysis makes little theoretical sense—lags ranging from 0 to 10 are significant, and more important, the lags in between are not significant.”4, p. 751. The critic argued that finding significance at non-contiguous lags is what one would expect if the results were due the chance finding a few significant ones out of several possible candidates. The IPPME authors replied:

 “Even if one were to dismiss the results for longer lags, the consistent and even stronger results found for lags 0 and 1 cannot be overlooked. The t values reported in the paper for lag 0 were all highly significant: war intensity, t= -4.91, p < .0001; war deaths, t = -3.58, p = .0004; and war index, t = 3.45, p = .0006 (the index was inverted, thus the sign change; see Tables 1 and 3, pp. 796, 801). For the overall composite index and the Israel composite index, the strongest effect was at lag 1 (p’s = .018 and .004, respectively). These immediate or next-day effects were predicted in advance of the experiment. On the other hand, the lags 5 and 10 results were much less significant and may have been due to chance as the critique suggested. However, it must be noted that on reanalysis, the lag 5 effect for the war index was quite robust (see Table 1), even if its explanation is not immediately apparent.” 2, p. 764-765.

 Regarding the longer significant lags, the original IPPME paper commented:

“Whether the effects manifested immediately or evolved more slowly appeared to depend on the nature of the system. In the case of the Lebanese conflict, the apparent delayed effects (at lags 5 and 10) could also have resulted from a direct positive influence that became observable only after steps were taken by policy makers over a period of several days.”1, p. 805.

The suggestion is that the higher coherence may have had both an immediate and a lagged effects on reducing the fighting—an immediate effect on the combatants and an immediate effect on the thinking and planning of policy makers to take a more peaceful path, which would have take a few days to be implemented, accounting for the lagged effects.

The issue of robustness checks. A critic wrote:

 “If theoretical reasons dictate using Box-Jenkins, then robustness checking should have been done by testing for the effects of “pseudointerventions” on random days when the treatment was not actually used...I would suggest that testing against pseudotreatments should have been a minimal requirement for publication given the complexity of the analytical technique and the numerous opportunities for introducing spurious correlations.” 4, p. 752.

The IPPME authors followed this suggestion and ran robustness checks and found no evidence of spurious correlations.

 “To do this, we used a random number generator from a computer library function to randomize the sequence of the independent variable (the numbers expressing the size of the TM and TM-Sidhi group). There was no significant autocorrelation structure in the randomized independent variable, showing that the sequence was truly random. The cross-correlation between the randomized independent variable and the prewhitened war index (LEBCOM) showed no significant cross-correlations to ten lags in both directions. This procedure was repeated a second time with a new set of random numbers, yielding the same results. We then ran two analyses using the LTF method, looking for transfer function effects of the two randomized independent variables on the war index out to ten lags in both directions. Once again, there were no significant transfer function effects to ten lags in either analysis.

“We then ran the same robustness checks the other way, leaving the independent variable as it was but using two randomizations of the dependent variable, the war index. The two randomized war indices were found to be white noise, with no significant autocorrelation structure. For both the cross correlation and LTF methods, there were no significant effects to ten lags in either direction.

Strongly supporting the validity of the time-series approach, and in striking contrast to the original analysis, the robustness checks with the pseudovariables yielded no significant outcomes.”  2, p. 765.

The issue of randomization. A critic wrote: “If the TM groups cannot muster the requisite meditators on the randomly chosen dates, then the experiment is thrown out. One of the most fundamental principles of statistical research is to reject an experiment when the treatment or test is no longer random.” (4, p. 752). The IPPME authors wrote:

“There were two main reasons for not employing random assignment in this study. First, it was simply not practical to schedule groups of the required size on a purely random basis. Clearly, other researchers in international conflict have also found it difficult to implement random assignment experiments in field settings. Reviewing the methodologies used in a sample of ninety-eight articles that appeared in thirteen issues of JCR between March 1984 and March 1990, we found that while half of the articles (49%) were directly on international conflict, none were experimental or quasiexperimental studies.  Most involved modeling of relationships between variables, and some were opinion surveys. The only experimental studies were laboratory simulations and of these, only ten used random assignment. If this sample is representative, then our paper may not only meet conservative standards for publication but be the first JCR study to actually evaluate experimentally a means of directly reducing conflict on the international scale.

“Second, where it is possible to bring together large groups, it may be considered unconscionable to then randomly withhold the groups from meditating, especially when there is evidence that to do so may mean that hundreds of lives are lost”  2, (p. 765-766).”

The issue of randomization was also addressed in the original IPPME paper as follows:

 “ ... when the MTUF was broken into quartiles, the 15 (or 16 days representing each quartile were found to be essentially randomly distributed over the duration of the experiment. The general finding of increased ARIMA impact for the larger quartiles supports a causal interpretation because it is unlikely that an unknown variable(s) would follow that same random time course as the distribution of group sizes reflected in the different quartiles.” 1, p. 804.

The issue of replication: The critics of IPPME did not include the most critical element for evaluating the scientific merit of empirical data, which is systematic replication. The results on the reducing the war in Lebanon have been replicated in all seven assemblies of TM-Sidhi participants predicted to be large enough and close enough to the Lebanon conflict to have an influence on it. 10 In addition, there are a total of 51 studies demonstrating the phenomenon.

Download list of 51 studies on the Maharishi Effect.

References

1. Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chandler H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812.

2. Orme-Johnson DW, Alexander CN, Davies JL. The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field: Reply to a methodological critique. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1990;34:756–768.

3. Duval R. TM or not TM? Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):813-817.

4. Schrodt P. Methodological critique of "International peace project in the Middle East". Journal of Conflict Resolution 1990;34:756-768.

5. Box GEP, Jenkins GM. Time series analysis: Forecasting and control. San Francisco: Holden-Day, 1976.

6. Akaike H. Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In: Petrov BA, Csaki F, editors. International Symposium on information theory. Budapest: Akademia Kiado, 1973:267-281.

7. Larimore WE. Predictive inference, sufficiency, entropy, and an asymptotic likelihood principle. Biometrica 1983;70:175 - 81.

8. Larimore WE, Mehra RK. The problem of overfitting data. Byte 1985;10:167–180.

9. Liu L-M. Use of linear transfer function analysis  in multivariate time series identification. Working paper No. 10. DeKalb, IL.: Scientific Computing Associates, 1985.

10. Davies JL, Alexander CN. Alleviating political violence through reducing collective tension: Impact Assessment analysis of the Lebanon war. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2005;17(1):285-338.

Return to Table of Contents

The Issue: Have Critics Disproved the International Peace Project in the Middle East?

The Evidence:

 

Orme-Johnson DW, Oates RM. A field-theoretic view of consciousness: reply to critics. Journal of Scientific Exploration 2008 23(2):139-166. pdf of the paper

 

Abstract—This paper replies to a critique (Fales & Markovsky, 1997) of a study reporting that group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program had a measurable effect on objective measures of the quality of life in Israel and the war in Lebanon (Orme-Johnson et al., 1988). The critics proposed various cultural/political events as alternative explanations for the results. These events could not explain the results, as indicated by (1) simple inspection of the pub¬lished data; (2) statistical analyses controlling for these events; (3) analyses of reduced data sets that completely eliminated the days of the events from the analyses; and (4) analyses of six random samples of 50% of the data. Although some of the cultural/political events suggested did have a significant effect on a composite index of crime, traffi c accidents, fires, war intensity, stock market, and national mood, the effects of these events were independent of the effect of the meditators and could not explain it. We argue that Maharishi’s theory of col¬lective consciousness provides a unifying framework that explains these results through a logical structure of clearly defi ned, operationalized terms grounded in physiological and behavioral research, which makes specific quantifiable and socially important predictions that have been extensively replicated.

 

Background: Critics of the Maharishi Effect have continued to try to find alternative explanations for the results of the International Peace Project in the Middle East [Orme-Johnson, Alexander, Davies, Chandler, & Larimore (1988)]. Whereas this critique by Fales and Markovsky has been characterized by some as "balanced and deeply researched,” it is not. The paper is a highly emotional diatribe against the theory, as well as an inaccurate treatment of the data, which will be documented below. It proposes alternative explanations of the effect, which can be seen to be untrue by simple inspection of the published data. Furthermore, formal statistical analyses show that none of the proposed alternative explanations can explain away the Maharishi Effect.

 

Fales, E., & Markovsky, B. (1997). Evaluating heterodox theories. Social Forces, 76, 511–525.

 

Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chandler H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812.

 

Emotional diatribe. Although the paper begins with an objective stance, it quickly degenerates into the use of derogatory adjectives such as "not impressive," "not compelling," "ill-constructed" (p. 3), "vacuous," "vague esoterica" (p. 4), "awkward," "esoteric," “recherché,” “far-fetched” (p. 5), "shaky," "vague" “not even interesting” (p. 6), "enigmatic," and "specious" (p. 9). It cited previous criticisms (Schrodt 1990) but not the replies to them (e.g., Orme-Johnson, et al. 1990), even when these replies address issues raised by the paper.


Orme-Johnson, David W., Charles N. Alexander, and John L. Davies. 1990. The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field: Reply to a methodological critique. Journal of Conflict Resolution 34:756–768.

Schrodt, P. 1990. Methodological critique of "International peace project in the Middle East". Journal of Conflict Resolution 34:756-768.

 

The eminent philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn wrote that there is an "arbitrary element" undermining the apparently open and data-driven scientific process (Kuhn 1970). This element is deeply held belief, faith and convictions that are compounded of personal and historical accident, that arise from the experience of the culture, and that are perpetuated through educational institutions that prepare and license professional scientists.  For this reason, much scientific research, in his view, comprises "strenuous and devoted attempts to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education" (Kuhn 1970; 45). When their positions are threatened, leaders of the social science community may resort to mobilizing "hostility and disgust" towards outgroups who challenge the "tribal myth" (Campbell 1979). Voluminous research indicates that paradigm-breaking new ideas in science are often opposed by entrenched opinions, posturing, and irrational rebuttal. Opponents of a new idea may pose as balanced and well-reasoned, when in fact they are using a rhetorical form to assert authority, protect orthodoxies, and even bar publication.


Campbell, Donald T. 1979. A tribal model of social system vehicle carrying scientific knowledge. In Robert Roth, Knowledge, Creation, Diffusion, Utilization. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage: 181-201.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970.The structure of scientific revolutions. In O. Neurath (Ed.) International encyclopedia of unified science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.)

 

Misuse of Bayes’ Theorem. Fales and Markovsky use a version of Bayes’ Theorem, which is usually a mathematical tool for dealing with particular types of probability issues. They use it in a nonstandard English language formulation as a means to address the issue of "theory confirmation." In their definition of Bayes’ Theorem, a theory’s confirmation is greater to the extent that (1) it is compelling in view of prior knowledge; (2) the evidence to be assessed is made probable by theory and prior knowledge; and (3) the [evidence] is not probable relative to alternative hypotheses and prior knowledge.


In this “Bayesian” framework, which becomes the logical heart of the critique, “prior knowledge” is the whole of criteria (1), and is essential in (2) and (3). By “prior knowledge” the critics means the current state of orthodox theory and evidence in a field, what they elsewhere call a “well-entrenched position.”  The authors’ intention to use “prior knowledge” as a criterion for disqualifying “heterodox” theories is problematic, because the Maharishi Effect is a sociological phenomenon and sociology is known to be preparadigmatic. As the authors frankly admit, sociology has only a “rudimentary understanding” of the “phenomenon we study.” A similar situation holds in the rest of the social sciences; there is no generally agreed-upon theoretical basis for psychology, for instance, or political science. Moreover, the Maharishi Effect is a consciousness-based phenomenon, and there is no systematic theory of consciousness available in any academic discipline. This complete lack of fundamental principles that can give order and meaning to studies of social phenomena in general, what to say of avowedly consciousness-based social phenomena, should be kept in mind as the critics emphasize that the theory behind the Maharishi Effect is improbable to the extent that it runs counter to “prior knowledge.” That is, there is no prior knowledge in this area, and hence this new theory cannot be counter to it.

 

The authors pose as using Bayes theorem as an objective means of discounting the Maharishi Effect theory. They try to make their enterprise sound objective by concluding that “the probability of the Maharishi Effect theory is approximately zero.” But when you look at what they did, you find that there were no objective probabilities that went into the equation, and no calculations were made. Only subjective opinions were stated, which as we have seen above, were expressed in emotional terms. The objective probability of a theory is not confirmed a priori or by opinions, but rather by the accumulation of experimental data over years and decades. There are now 51 studies on the Maharishi Effect. 

Download Word document list of 60 research and review papers on 51 studies on the Maharishi Effect. (click here)

 

Reanalysis of the data supports the Maharishi Effect. A reanalysis of hard data from official governmental and other public sources, which was used in the original study, demonstrates that the outcomes were not caused by a third variable, did not depend on any transformations of the data, were independent of the effects of control variables, were robust using different methods of statistical analysis, are obvious with no statistics at all, and were strong compared to the effects of major events at the time.

The main variable reanalyzed was the Overall Composite Index of quality to life, which was the arithmetic mean of six standardized variables: Lebanon war intensity scale, and automobile accidents, fires, stock market, total Israeli crime, and national mood in Israel. The negative variables (war, auto accidents, fires, crime) were inverted so that positive values of the scale indicate improved quality of life. The study was of the effects on the Overall index by a group in Jerusalem practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program twice a day over a period of 61 days in August and September 1983. The group size fluctuated irregularly between 61 to 241 people over the period of the study. The data were broken into four quartiles of group size, ranging from Q1, the smallest quartile, to Q4, the largest. The basic finding was the bigger the group of meditators, the higher the Overall Composite Index of quality of life. This is shown in the figure below. As the group size increased, from Q1 to Q4, the Overall Index increased significantly, shown in the darkest line graph, labeled “No Control” (p < .0001). The figure also shows that the various control variables did not substantially change the way that the quality of life index increased as number of meditators increased.

 

Effects of Increasing Size of a TM Group (ME Quartiles) on the Overall Quality of Life in Israel and Lebanon. This figure shows that various control variables did not eliminate the increase in the Overall Composite quality of life index for Israel and Lebanon as the size of a group of people practicing Transcendental Meditation and the TM-Sidhi program in Jerusalem was increased over a two-month period in 1983. The greater the number of meditators in the group, the greater the reduction in war in Lebanon and crime, fires, and auto accidents in Israel, and the greater an increase in national mood and the stock market in Israel, as indicated by higher values of the Overall Composite Index. (Technical note: essentially the same results were found when the Overall Index was successfully prewhitened with an autoregressive 1 (AR1) noise model, which insured statistical independence of the time series data, p < .0002.)

Further analysis showed that even when the control days were completely eliminated from the data sets, the Maharishi Effect still worked. For example, it worked for weekdays as well as for weekends, for non-holidays as well as for holidays, for hot days as well as cool days, for August as well as for September, for political/military-eventful days as well as for non-eventful days. This indicates that the effect was robust, manifesting through different kinds of military, political, social, and climatic conditions.

Moreover, analysis of six random samples of the 50% data (that is, random samples of 30 days out of the 61 days of the study) showed that the Maharishi Effect worked for each sample. This provides a generalized proof that the Maharishi Effect is not confounded by any particular special days. 

Replication. The Maharishi Effect has been replicated 51 times, including seven times specifically on the Lebanon war (Davies and Alexander 2005).


Davies, J.L. and C.N. Alexander. 2005. Alleviating political violence through reducing collective tension: Impact Assessment analysis of the Lebanon war. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17: 285-338.


Data Sharing.

Download Excel Spreadsheet of data (172 KB) for International Peace Project in the Middle East.

Fales and Markovsky (1997) stated in a footnote to their paper that we did not share the data from our study with them. This is a half truth.

  • On November 11, 1994 Dr. Markovsky requested our data, and we did give it to him in graphic forms, which had been published five years before as Appendix A along with a reprinting of the published paper in the Collected Papers. Orme-Johnson D, Alexander C, Davies J, Chandler H, Larimore W. International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution 1988;32(4):776-812. In Roger Chalmers, et al. (eds.) (1989). Scientific Research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program, Collected Papers, Vol. 4: 2653-2678, Appendix A.
  • We pointed out that all the original data sources were documented in the published paper, and that anyone could get the data from those sources, which were governmental statistics and other public documents, such as newspapers.
  • We told Fales and Markovsky that we would give them the data in electronic format as a spreadsheet after Markovsky publicly withdrew several false derogatory statements he made about the research on television and in a newspaper. Since he made no effort to do this, I did not give him the data.

Download full circumstances that lead to our refusal to give the data to Fales and Markovsky.

The Issue: Have critics of the Maharishi Effect always been fair and rational in their approach?

The Evidence:

In her doctoral dissertation for Harvard University's Graduate School of Education of Harvard University, Dr. Carla Brown conducted semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 35 members of the US Middle East policy network on how they assessed the truth and utility of the International Peace Project in the Middle East: the Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field (IPPME), a research paper that was published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution (JCR), widely considered to be the best journal in the field.  The professionals interviewed included six peer reviewers, ten newspaper reporters, seven Congresspeople, eight non-governmental policy analysts, activists, and lobbyists, and four members of the U.S. diplomatic community.

Over half of each group did not consider the scientific evidence at all in deciding the truth of IPPME. They made their judgments based on their own paradigm of how society works and on considerations of political utility.  Twelve respondents examined scientific quality only minimally, and nine of those said that science could not contribute to social solutions and was irrelevant to their jobs.  Only eight respondents examined the scientific quality and took it into account explicitly. Those who did assess scientific quality were more likely to consider further research. Only a few were able to separate their assessments from their personal philosophies and practices, and those of their organizations. Other respondents were strongly constrained by their personal views and existing repertoires and those prominent in their organizations.

One peer reviewer, called “Fisher” in Dr. Brown’s study, apparently found the research on IPPME an affront to his religious beliefs. He mounted a campaign in the conflict resolution community to try to discredit the research by circulating a highly emotional attack on the research, which was full of mistakes and overlooked considerable evidence in the original IPPME paper that was contrary to his arguments. He told Dr. Brown in his interview 'Hey, wait a moment, these dudes are trespassing on my turf so I'm going to go after it.' He evoked religious imagery, and in effect described the IPPME, all successive research, and its authors as heretical to orthodox standards and assumptions. His aim appears to have been to authoritatively write off the research as unworthy of publication in credible political science journals; to perform a scientific demarcation excluding IPPME; to get social science "out of this mess," as he indicated in one of two lengthy anonymous reviews that he sent to JCR and International Studies Quarterly, where Davies' and Alexander's subsequent paper was submitted and rejected. Dr. Brown found that the intention of Fisher and other reviewers was not to review the IPPME research, but was simply to debunk it and quash further discussion.

In his interview, a JCR editor referred to accumulated critiques by Fisher and others as a reason for not considering follow-up research, and he mandated a second editor find a way to stop future publication on the topic. The second editor said in his interview:

“So he appealed to me in the implicit, almost explicit request, 'Advise me, but I would be most happy if you would find a way to turn off the spigot.'  I've never [before] had someone ask me to review something with a mandate to find a way to stop debate on this.”

This editor constructed a criticism of the IPPME study, but when the study authors pointed out that it was based on a misreading of the paper, the senior editor had to pull it from publication. No further publications of research in this area have been allowed by the JCR, even though no rational reason has been found to reject the  research. In contrast to the irrational behavior of these reviewers, Dr. Brown found that the authors of the IPPME study were willing to scientifically test the critics’ suggested alternative explanations.

Dr. Brown also cited the literature exposing the common misstatement that scientists who believe in the approaches that they test cannot be objective or scientific.

“Ian Mitroff's 1974 study of 40 scientists who were involved in Apollo lunar missions suggested that attachment to one's ideas may not always be a liability in the scientific arena.93  Apollo moon scientists identified three of their colleagues as most attached to their views, "even to the point of infuriating pig-headedness."  The same scientists were also considered by the same colleagues to be the most creative and brilliant and therefore important.  Less stubborn, more analytical, but less speculative scientists, "who cautiously generalized from large amounts of data, were rated as impartial but dull and unimaginative." 94

“All of the scientists Mitroff interviewed considered the notion of an emotionally uninvolved, objective scientist to be naive and also not an ideal worth emulating.  They considered it important to be emotionally committed."

93.       Mitroff, Ian, 1974a.
94.       Leahey, Thomas and Richard Harris, 234.  Mitroff, Ian, 1974a, August, 1974.

Brown, C. L.  Overcoming barriers to use of promising research among elite Middle East policy groups. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality,17(1), 489-546.

Download PDF of this paper.

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Scholars express positive views towards the Maharishi Effect

Not all scholars who have reviewed the research on the Maharishi Effect have been critical of it.  Here are some positive reviews.

“The research has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field of conflict resolution. I think this work, and the theory that informs it, deserves the most serious consideration by academics and policy makers alike.”

David Edwards, PhD, Professor of Government, University of Texas (Austin)  

“This research is exciting. It is a non-traditional conception, but the straightforward evidence gives the theory credence in my eyes.”

Ved Nanda, PhD, director of the International Legal Studies Program, University of Denver

“The hypothesis definitely raised some eyebrows among our reviewers. But the statistical work is sound. The numbers are there.”

Raymond Russ, PhD, Professor of Psychology U. of Maine, Editor of the Journal of Mind and Behavior

“As unlikely as the premise may sound, I think we have to take these studies seriously."

Ted Robert Gurr, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Government, University of Maryland

"... the hypothesis seems logically derived from the initial premises, and its empirical testing seems competently executed.  These are the standards to which manuscripts submitted for publication in this journal are normally subjected.  The manuscript, either in its initial version or as revised was read by four referees (to more than is typical with this journal): three psychologists and a political scientist."

Bruce Russet, editor, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32 (4), p. 773, 1988.

"... both the level of exposition and the application of statistical methods for hypothesis testing are commiserate with this reviewer's standards are scientific research... clearly our literature is large enough to absorb competing schools of thought on various issues.

Robert Duval, Journal of conflict resolution, 32(4), p.  813-814, 1988.

"If I apply the criteria I would normally used to judge any other example ‘traditional' research I would have to recommend publication."  Anonymous reviewer, quoted by

Russet, Journal of conflict resolution, 32(4), p. 773, 1988.

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A Personal View:

I would like to express my thanks to the critics of the research on the Maharishi Effect. If it were not for them bringing up these issues into public debate, it would go largely ignored.  I think Hegel was correct that thesis-antithesis-synthesis is the inevitable process through which knowledge progresses.  Certainly this is an important part of the scientific process.

However, efforts to stop the debate and censor publication are not, or at least should not be, part of science. My experience is that there are many entrenched self-interest groups who use current dogma to secure their positions. But even these destructive forces further the process of evolution by forcing the creative forces to exert greater effort to overcome their barriers. I think even the would-be censors will be viewed by future generations merely as amusing examples in the history of science of what happens during a phase transition to a new paradigm. If the theory of the Maharishi Effect is correct, and in my opinion it is correct, what will ultimately defeat its critics will be that it works. In the end, we will get a just, equitable, prosperous, and peaceful world. At least that is a possibility. I hope we deserve it.

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