We live in dangerous times. Many nations, states, cities, terrorist groups, and even individuals have enough wealth to buy weapons of mass destruction. Lightweight, backpack-size nuclear weapons are allegedly available on the black market. Biological and chemical weapons can be transported just as easily. Even high levels of security cannot guarantee total protection, nor can even the most well armed security force prevent terrorist attacks, but that doesn’t stop the sales of massive amounts of weapons around the world. Those sales are driven by one thing: fear. Fear is a driving force in the current defense paradigm. This fear-based model applies to opposing factions within countries as well as to conflict between countries. While the cycle of arms build-up enriches arms dealers, it drains resources that could be used to alleviate environmental, social, and economic problems.
Is there a better way? Perhaps. A new defense model is emerging — one based on prevention rather than fear. Using group meditation, the technique, known as consciousness-based defense, can actually prevent an enemy from arising by reducing collective stress in society. Psychologist Dr. David Orme-Johnson, is the Director of Research at the Institute of Science, Technology, and Public Policy (ISTPP) at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Orme-Johnson explains that collective stress is the sum total of individual stress. The individual is the basic unit of society, he says. When stress, tension, and fear build up in the individual, the rest of society is degraded as well.
ISTPP scientists, including Orme-Johnson, assert that society’s collective stress is the root cause of conflict and terrorism. If collective stress is high, fear and anger thrive in the population. Ethnic hatreds flare, old wounds open, and distrust festers. Territorial, political, cultural, and religious differences become more difficult to resolve creating seemingly endless chains of conflict.
Orme-Johnson points out that nothing our government does now addresses the cause. On the contrary, he says, forceful response to conflict increases the problem. “Fear in the world spurs arms build up and the development of arms technology, which only causes more fear,” he says. “Disarmament is not realistic because no one can rationally disarm when facing an armed aggressor.”
To counteract this fear and promote peace, scientists at ISTPP are encouraging every country to spend about one percent of the military budget to implement a consciousness-based defense program that they are calling Prevention Wings of the Military. Soldiers would be given one additional duty: to practice the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program daily in large groups. The theory is that this would result in more peaceful world.
||The twenty-first century will be the “age of the mind,” and that the TM program could have a very important place in it.
– The late Major General Franklin M. Davis, TM meditator, futurist, and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College
Vedic scholar and physicist Maharishi Mahesh Yogi revived the TM program from the ancient tradition of India. Bob Rabinoff, who has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Arizona, describes TM as “a simple, easily learned, non-religious meditation practice.” Rabinoff is a teacher of the TM technique and an independent computer consultant in the Midwest. He says that over five million people have learned TM worldwide.
“Everyone who learns TM is taught the same way throughout the world,” says Rabinoff. Because of this standardization, he says, it is possible to study the TM program scientifically. Indeed, the benefits of practicing TM have been well documented. “Over six hundred scientific studies show that the TM technique can measurably reduce stress and increase coherence in the individual,” Rabinoff says.
According to Orme-Johnson, the effects of the TM technique on society have also been extensively studied. “This research has used state-of-the-art statistical methodology and objective sources of data, including official government statistics and databases created by independent researchers,” he says. “The researchers have controlled for a wide range of alternative explanations. Results have been repeatedly replicated on different populations, and the studies have been published in leading peer reviewed journals such as Social Indicators Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Proceedings of the American Statistical Association.” The results include: statistically significant reductions in war deaths, improvements in economic conditions, enhanced quality of life, and reductions in crime, violence, accidents, and illness.
The research indicates that meditation by one percent of a population can have an effect. In the 1980s, research showed positive changes while an organized group of about two hundred meditators practiced an advanced TM program near Lebanon. War deaths in Lebanon went down seventy-one percent, war injuries dropped sixty-eight percent, and the level of conflict fell forty-eight percent. Cooperation among antagonists rose by sixty-six percent. After the intervention period, these measures returned to previous levels.
Researchers theorize that the consciousness of each individual meditator affects the group, and the group’s consciousness radiates into the surrounding population. In one experiment, when an experienced meditator in one room practiced TM and began to show increased brainwave coherence, an individual in a room nearby showed increased brainwave coherence as well. When the groups are large, similar increases in coherence are produced in subjects far removed from the group. For example, an experiment showed an increase in intersubject EEG coherence 1,000 miles from the group. A biochemical study has shown that on days when large numbers of people meditated, both practitioners and non-practitioners in the local area exhibited higher availability of serotonin, a neurochemical associated with feelings of well-being or happiness. Low levels of serotonin are known to play a role in human aggression, hostility, and substance abuse.
A study published last year in Social Indicators Research predicted that violent crime would plummet while a large group of advanced TM practitioners meditated in Washington, D.C. The researchers predicted that during the eight-week study period, the calming influence of group meditation practice could reduce violent crime in this city by over twenty percent. A review board of independent scientists was given the predictions in advance.
The predictions proved to be accurate: the rate of violent crime — which included assaults, murders, and rapes — decreased by 23 percent during the experimental period. The odds of this result occurring by chance are less than 2 in 1 billion. Rigorous statistical analyses ruled out an extensive list of alternative explanations.
Responding to all the research, David V. Edwards, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “I think the claim can be plausibly made that the potential impact of this research exceeds that of any other ongoing social or psychological research program. It has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field of conflict resolution. This work and the theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policy makers alike.”
Of course there are plenty of skeptics. For instance, Robert D. Duval, a political science professor at West Virginia University, wrote in 1988 about a study from the Journal of Conflict Resolution, “This article is of questionable value to mainstream international politics research because its basic premises are suspect. The fundamental assumptions of a ‘unified field’ and a ‘collective consciousness’ are not within the paradigm under which most of us operate.” Even Duval, however, admits that “If one will, for the sake of argument, accept these premises as plausible, then the research conforms quite well to scientific standards.”
The military has started to take notice of the notion of consciousness-based defense. Readers of military publications including Britain’s Jane’s Defence Daily, were recently introduced to the idea by several full-page advertisements. Along with the usual ads for conventional weapons — tanks, bombs, and armored aircraft — the paper carried flashy ads promoting consciousness-based defense. The ads were met with skepticism. However, the Londoner’s Diary section of The Evening Standard, published in the United Kingdom, quoted a Jane’s spokesperson about accepting these ads as saying, “We haven’t had a chance to test the system, but spiritual defence systems could be the next generation of weapons.”
The world has witnessed more than 186 wars since the founding of the United Nations. If consciousness-based defense lives up to its promise, perhaps we will see the end of fear-based defense in our lifetime. The late Major General Franklin M. Davis, TM meditator, futurist, and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, predicted in 1973 that the twenty-first century would be the “age of the mind,” and that the TM program could have a very important place in it. He may be right. Prevention Wings of the Military could offer hope of real defense. Militaries that implement consciousness-based defense may finally achieve genuine and lasting world peace.
Dr. David R. Leffler has a Ph.D. in Consciousness-Based military defense. His wife, Lee, has a Master of Arts in professional writing. Other articles by the Leffler’s are on the Internet at www.davidleffler.com
Published in the May/June 2000 issue of Tikkun, Volume 15, Number 3, pages 58-59 Reprinted with permission © 2000 David R. Leffler and Lee M. Leffler. All rights reserved