Maharishi Effect

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In 1960, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted that one percent of a population practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique would produce measurable improvements in the quality of life for the whole population. This phenomenon was first noticed in 1974 and reported in a paper published in 1976. Here, the finding was that when 1% of a community practiced the Transcendental Meditation (TM®) program, the crime rate was reduced by 16% on average. At this time, the phenomenon was named the Maharishi Effect. The meaning of this term was later extended to cover the influence generated by the group practice of the TM-Sidhi® program. Generally, the Maharishi Effect may be defined as the influence of coherence and positivity in the social and natural environment generated by the practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi programs.
Maharishi introduced the TM-Sidhi program, including Yogic Flying, in 1976. Group practice of this program was observed to be particularly beneficial. On the basis of analogies to physical systems, scientists estimated that the coherence generated by group practice of the TM-Sidhi program should be proportional to the square of the number of participants. Taking into account the “1%” finding, it was predicted that a group with the size equal to the square root of 1% of a population would have a measurable influence on the quality of life of that population. For example, a group of 200 practicing the TM-Sidhi program together in a city of four million (100 x 200 x 200) would be sufficient to produce a measurable influence on the whole city; a group of 1,600 in the U.S. would influence 256 million (100 x 1600 x 1600) people, the whole population of the U.S.; and a group of 7,000 would influence 4.9 billion (100 x 7000 x 7000) people, the population of the world at that time.
The TM-Sidhi program was practiced in large groups on numerous occasions in the following decade, and the first statistical analysis of the effects was published in 1987. These showed a decrease of about 11% in violent crimes in Washington, D.C., in total crimes in Metro Manila, and in total crimes in the Union Territory of Delhi. The p values (the probabilities of the observed changes happening by chance) of these three effects were 0.01, 0.005, and 0.001, which are excellent for results in social science.
Subsequent research has confirmed the existence and the universality of the Maharishi Effect. It has become possible to lodge a prediction in advance with the police and the mayor of a city and then create the effect. This was put to the test under the careful scrutiny of a distinguished review board in 1993 in Washington, D.C. The maximum decrease in violent crimes was 23.3%. The statistical probability that this result could reflect chance variation in crime levels was less than 2 in 1 billion (p < .000000002).
Not surprisingly, since the theory and the phenomenon are so new to modern science, the methodology of a study is subjected to rigorous analysis by the journal review boards before a paper on the Maharishi Effect is accepted for publication. As a result, the research is really a gem of social science, not only on account of its significance but also for the quality of its methodology.

Predicted in advance

Starting in July 2006, advanced meditators assembled at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, to create a group large enough to have this influence on the U.S. as a whole.

Predictions were lodged with the press and other scientists that significant decreases in violent crime would occur when the group reached or exceeded the theoretically predicted threshold of the square root of 1% of the U.S. population. By January 2007 the group exceeded the required size of 1,725 participants, the square root of 1% of the U.S. population at the time, and remained above or near that level through 2010.

A new hypothesis in the social sciences

“I understand it’s a new hypothesis in the social sciences that meditation could have a stress-reducing and coherence-creating effect in society,” said lead author Michael Dillbeck. “But such research is increasingly suggesting that there’s a field effect of consciousness. If you get a large enough group together practicing this technique to experience the field quality of consciousness, these extended ‘field-like’ effects are expressed in society.”

The hypothesis of a field effect of consciousness implies that there is an underlying connection between individuals in much the same way that physics has uncovered greater unity beneath the diversity of matter and energy fields. The more powerfully that underlying field is enlivened, the greater the unifying influence of peace and harmony on the surface levels of life.

The hypothesis — also known as Maharishi Effect — was first proposed in 1960 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique. This hypothesis was first confirmed by published research in the 1970s and 1980s when it was observed that those cities that had 1% of the population practicing Transcendental Meditation showed significant increases in positive trends.

The Maharishi Effect was found to be even greater when the advanced TM-Sidhi program was introduced, with observations suggesting that just the square root of 1% of a population could increase harmony and improve diverse measures of the quality of life in society.

Nine peer-reviewed articles, comprising 14 studies, have now been published that support this hypothesized effect.

Plots of monthly homicide rate (HOM) and the size of the TM-Sidhi participant’s group (GROUP).
Note. In panel (a), the plot of HOM for Nov. 2002 to Dec. 2010 displays strong monthly seasonality, a relatively flat pre-intervention trend, and a shift to a declining trend in the intervention period starting January 2007 (shown by the vertical line in the plot). Panel (b) shows the plot of the monthly average daily size of the TM-Sidhi group. The group size rose rapidly beginning in July 2006 until in January 2007 it rose for the first time above the theoretically predicted critical threshold of 1,725, √1% of the U.S. population at that time. The average size of the group is 587 participants for the 50 pre-intervention months and 1,792 for the 48 months of the intervention period. HOM = homicide rate. GROUP = size of the group of TM-Sidhi program participants.

Rigorous statistical analysis

The study’s authors used a battery of diagnostic tests to establish the validity of the key statistical assumptions of the analysis, which utilized “broken-trend intervention analysis” of outcomes, a form of “interrupted time series analysis.”

They also found that alternative hypotheses, such as economic trends, incarceration rates, seasonal cycles, demographic changes, and policing strategies, weren’t sufficient to explain the observed reduction.

For example, violent crime rates fell significantly during the severe recession of 2007-2009 rather than rising as widely expected. According to a leading expert on crime and the economy, this was the first time since World War II in which crime rates failed to rise during a major economic downturn.

Important implications for crime prevention

“Given that there are now multiple studies showing a highly significant relationship between a large group practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs and decreased violence in society, this obviously has implications for crime prevention,” Dr. Dillbeck said.

The group that gathered in the period 2007-2010 has now somewhat dispersed. Dr. Dillbeck suggests that if governments were to support the establishment of groups in various countries so that these groups could be maintained over long periods, it could have a remarkable effect in reducing hostilities and fostering coherence among nations, which could be assessed by further research. Indeed, a number of countries are already creating such groups through private organizations and gaining increasing governmental support.

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