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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Steve Taylor is a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. He is the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of the Human Mind. Eckhart Tolle has called his work 'an important contribution to the shift in consciousness happening on our planet at this time.' stevenmtaylor.co.uk.
Reply to Kleissner
The point she misses about meditation is the importance of its effect on Chissano himself.
The response of Moira Kleissner is interesting, and there are a couple of valid points - I was only writing a short piece for my Psychology Today blog, so it's a valid point that I over-simplified the issue.
However, her argument is spoiled by contradictions and an obvious Christian bias. She agrees throughout that Chissano is a remarkable man who achieved remarkable feats - but she tries to reduce his achievement by comparing to other African leaders who have done great things and by mentioning two other African countries which have undergone a similar turnaround. But how does that diminish his achievement? It's like saying that a holiday resort isn't really so beautiful because there are a few other resorts in the same area which are also beautiful. There are other success stories in Africa, but they certainly aren't the norm.
The point she misses about meditation is the importance of its effect on Chissano himself - how it changed his way of thinking, and his approach to dealing with conflicts and the problems of government. (Of course, he has done many great things since leaving office in Mozambique too.) It may also have positively affected the soldiers and civil servants who learned it - although there's no doubt that there was also some resentment, especially from religious people. And of course, it was Chissano's own opinion that meditation was a powerful positive influence on his country.
The author displays a very biased attitude to TM. I learned TM myself 25 years ago, and have learned a lot of other meditation techniques. I did TM regularly for a few months back then, and I occasionally use the technique even now - although not very often, as I don't find it as effective as other techniques. TM practitioners like to believe that there is something 'special' about their technique - in fact, another response I had to the article after it was posted on Integral World was from an irate TM practitioner who took me to task for not using capital letter when writing 'transcendental meditation' (perhaps I should have written TM for trademark too!). His point was that TM is different and superior to other forms of meditation, and so should be clearly differentiated from them.
I don't think this is true at all - the technique is very similar to many other types, as is the aim and result of the technique. And equally, there is certainly nothing 'dangerous' or sinister about TM compared to other forms of meditation. I suspect this is a Christian attitude to the practice.
Some Christians are against all forms of meditation, since they believe an empty mind is open to evil forces - so they prefer to keep their minds full of random chattering thoughts and repetitive ingrained anxiety-inducing thought patterns! Some Christians accept that meditation is okay in principle - after all, Christian monks and mystics have been meditating for hundreds of years, and it's still a big part of some Christian traditions (e.g. the Eastern Orthodox church). But perhaps it suits some members of this group to believe that there are 'sinister' forms of meditation (such as TM) which can have an evil influence.
The studies on the environmental effects (e.g. reducing the crime rate in Washington DC) seem almost incredible - but they have been overseen and validated by independent academics, who have verified them, so until someone can find flaws in the data, they appear to stand as evidence that changes in consciousness can 'radiate' outwards and effect the minds of people in the vicinity.
As for her points about the effects of TM - TM is not widely practised in India, so the argument that 'it should have brought peace to India' is invalid. But come to mention it, Christianity is avowedly a religion of peace, but there has been no shortage of supposed Christians committing atrocities (the Catholic church's child abuse scandals are the latest case in point).
Of course, this is rather unfair - I like Chesterton's quote 'The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.' But the same applies to meditation: it's a simple technique, but many people find it difficult in practice, partly because the mind is so restless, and partly because of the discipline involved in doing it regularly. The point about John Lennon and Yoko Ono is a little bizarre - John Lennon learned TM in 1967 and only practised regularly for a few months afterwards. And as far as I know his killer Michael Chapman didn't do any meditation at all!
So no doubt I did over-simplify the story, but I think it's undeniable that meditation was a powerful positive influence on Chissano himself, and probably on at least some members of his government.