In 1976, researchers associated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first described that in communities where there were large numbers of serious meditators, crime rates went down as the number of meditators went up. This has become known as the “Maharishi effect,” and some of this research has been published in highly reputable journals. You can see a summary of some of the research here. I also discuss this whole fascinating issue in more detail in Healing, Meaning and Purpose.
As you can imagine, it is controversial and has stirred up some heated arguments. But mounting research is pointing to evidence of a global consciousness that is developing and evolving.
More data on this effect was presented at a news conference on Wednesday, November 1, at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Scientists reported on a rigorous, controlled econometric analysis of the first 100 days of a $12 million scientific demonstration project to monitor the effects of 1200 advanced Transcendental Meditation practitioners on quality of life indicators.
The research is said to show that since the project began on July 23, 2006, the Dow Jones Industrial Index and the S&P 500 have posted total gains of approximately 12%, and the NASDAQ has climbed nearly 18%. The Dow has repeatedly hit all-time record levels, the S&P reaching a 5.5-year high, and the NASDAQ climbing to a five-year high.
If true, this is astonishing.
I don’t doubt the sincerity or scientific expertise of any members of the research teams. I’ve checked out some of the other work that each has done, and it has all been of the highest order. The one problem is that this is like a pharmaceutical company having a press conference to tell the world about a new wonder drug before anyone outside the company has had a chance to check out the research. Yes the data is out there, but there are a hundred and one messy little details that need to be checked over.
We have no reason to doubt, except that doubt has to be the perpetual mind set of the scientist. Many factors can make the markets go up and down. And until the research has been checked and validated by every interested person in the world we have to remain skeptical.
Let me tell you how this checking is done. Last week I was sent a research paper by a prestigious journal with a personal note from the editor asking me to see what I thought of the research. I read through the paper in great detail, checking the citations, the methodology, statistics and even the spelling.
This is a task undertaken by every senior academic, often once or twice a week. We don’t get paid for doing it, and the whole process is anonymous: I don’t know who did the research and they don’t know who is passing judgment on their labors. We do this work for the common good. Earlier this evening I completed my report to the editor. But it doesn’t stop there. One or two other experts will have done the same with the paper and then the editor decides based on all of our reports.
Then there are two more steps. If the editor decides to publish, then the global scientific community will crawl all over the research to see if we reviewers have missed anything and if the research looks okay. Finally others will have to replicate the study.
This is why research often seems to progress at a snail’s pace. In actual fact it isn’t. It is going very quickly, but each step is being checked extremely carefully. Even with all of this conscientious effort, research regularly gets published that turns out not to be correct after all.
And with such extraordinary claims we require extraordinarily good proof.
If, as I suspect, the research is indeed found to be correct, it could change the world forever.