Check out my review of Ken Wilber's latest book Finding Radical Wholeness

Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Moira Kleissner is an ex- primary Deputy Head with a specialization in Religious Education (post -grad MA, Kings London). She worked in Senegal and Guinea Bissau, West Africa for a number of years and is now living in the East of England and working part-time as a primary school librarian.

to Taylor

Moira Kleissner

Was it TM or a simply a charismatic President with good organizational and political skills who brought in a democracy?

I read the article ["Can Meditation Change the World?"} and found it interesting but not at all accurate. The writer's view that all in Mozambique is wonderful due to TM is an oversimplification.

We worked in Portuguese speaking Africa and knew the situation of post-War Independence in the ex-Portuguese colonies, from living in Guinea Bissau for several years, even if it was 30 years ago. I still am interested in the ex-Portuguese colonies after that experience. When we were in Lisbon learning Portuguese our landlady's husband had worked for Shell in Mozambique in 1950s/60s. So it wasn't a country with nothing until Chissano came, which the article gives the impression. It is a country rich in natural reserves that were being mined by multi-nationals then, until the war, and now still are being mined again today.

Mozambique is a success, but then so is Angola (another ex-Portuguese colony that went through war). There is no doubt that Chissano was a charismatic President who did bring in democracy, consumerism and capitalism to some, particularly in the cities. But there have been and still are many post-colonial African leaders, especially in the resource-rich southern areas of the continent, who have done just as much, if not more, without TM. One just needs to think of Botswana - I had friends who worked there in the police, medicine and as youth workers.

However, these rich resources don't impinge on the general poverty of most of the indigenous people living in Angola and Mozambique. Chissano became President in 1986 and started trying to improve matter, long before he was interested in TM. The majority of ordinary people are desperately poor. 55% of the population still live on less that $1 per day - the mark of abject poverty. TM certainly hasn't cured that!

Even in spite of what he did, there has been widespread corruption during Chissano's presidency. There have been periods of violence during his presidency too - nothing like the War of Indepence and subsequent Struggle for Nationhood but still violence. By 1993, 1.5m refugees had left for a variety of reason of being unhappy with Chissano's policies, and many still are leaving today because of the recent drought. So not all was that rosy, I'm afraid. We have a Mozabeqiuian family in our school who came to Britain 10 years ago. Don't know why, but they had UN Refugee recognition as Refugees, now have British nationality. If all was peace and light and wonderful ,why did they have to leave on a UN passport?

The article states that it was Chissano's TM that brought peace. This is simplistic and not actually true. In 1992 the Rome General Peace treaty was brokered by 'The Council of Mozambique Churches' (most of which were Protestant) and peace was launched by ONUMOZ a peace keeping project from the UN. Chissano became part of this effort as one of the leaders of Frelimo (By the way Frelimo participates in some pretty horrific atrocities too during the Struggle for Nationhood - so Chissano isn't innocent!) but it was not solely him or TM who brought peace. That is totally inaccurate. The initial movement came from the Christian churches.

There is a high proportion of Mozambiquians who are strong practicing Christians. Did you know that the Church of Scotland had a strong presence there in 19th century in building hospitals and schools and running agricultural projects to help people make the most of the land they had, and when they left the Portuguese Presbyterian Church continued doing the building schools and hospitals.

So Chissono didn't create modern Mozambique from nothing. Yes, sure much of it was wrecked because of the War of Independence and subsequent Struggle but other countries in Africa and Europe have recovered from war without TM. It is normal for the number of kids attending schools, health figures and living standards to improve when peace comes after a war. Chissano was president from 1986 and the country started to improve politically and socially from then, long before he became involved in TM from 1992.

The question then has to be asked was it TM or a simply a charismatic President with good organizational and political skills who brought in a democracy based on the rich resources that Mozambique has?

Certainly there were huge problems with his insistence that all army and national employees practiced TM twice each day. So much for freedom of religion ! For the Christians, some of whom fled to Portugal or other countries, rather than comply with this order, and also animists who could not progress up their careers because they refused to do TM, it wasn't quite so wonderful.

I find this insistence on TM to be completely against freedom of belief and therefore cannot celebrate it. If people want to do TM that is fine, I have no problems, but to demand that they do, undermines basic freedoms and doesn't sound democratic to me.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

TM is not benign. It is not part of a mainline traditional religion but is a modern invention based on yogic Hinduism and introduced in 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - remember him?- friend of Beatles. Some sociologists even classify it as having cultic elements, from a sociology of religion definition.

There are some who say that you can use TM in a secular manner. Meditation is not new and goes back into the mists of time and indeed is even part of some branches of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and animism, sometimes leading to altered states of mind. It all depends what you do in your meditation. Some of the Mozambique Christians objected because they were being asked to chant Hindu mantras - I don't know how true this is. That is not freedom of religion.

There have been a number of studies over the years on the effects of TM with no definite independent scientific proof that it actually does anything. Studies have been, and still are still being done in universities. However some of these studies are undertaken by the Maharishi Institute in the USA, which is hardly independent.

If TM makes people happy fine, but it most certainly doesn't bring peace and freedom from poverty - otherwise there would be no poverty in India today! If TM worked then John Lennon and Yoko Ono would have already brought in world peace. Instead he was shot and they became very rich while many who followed them were poor in spite of doing TM.

I believe in freedom of religion not coercion to practice any religious/ philosophical practice, even by a magnificent Mozambiqian President with great diplomatic and political skills.

Comment Form is loading comments...