Dangers of Meditation

In general, meditation is about as safe as sitting on your sofa at home, or taking a walk in a good neighborhood.

Individuality. But each human being is different, with a unique body chemistry, emotional makeup, life history, and secret inner life. There are thousands of very different meditation techniques, with very different embedded values.

Inner Criticism. Very few people actually follow instructions. If you interview meditators, it is surprising to notice how most make up their own rules, misinterpret the technique, or selectively interpret the technique so that it fits in with their inner self-hatred, or inner punishment, or an inner critical voice.

Life Changes. By definition, in most forms of meditation, you are there facing yourself - whatever you have been running away from will be right there. Also, people who start meditation are often in the midst of some life transition or crisis. That is why they are willing to spend time learning and practicing meditation.

Definition of CONTRAINDICATION : something (as a symptom or condition) that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable

From Behind the TM Facade

STUDY:   Perez-De-Abeniz, Alberto and Holmes, Jeremy. Meditation: Concepts, Effects and Uses in Therapy. International Journal of Psychotherapy, March 2000, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p49, 10p.

Abstract: This article reviews 75 scientific selected articles in the field of meditation, including Transcendental Meditation among others. It summarizes definitions of meditation, psychological and physiological changes, and negative side-effects encountered by 62.9% of meditators studied. While the authors did not restrict their study to TM, the side-effects reported were similar to those found in the "German Study" of Transcendental Meditators: relaxation-induced anxiety and panic; paradoxical increases in tension; less motivation in life; boredom; pain; impaired reality testing; confusion and disorientation; feeling 'spaced out'; depression; increased negativity; being more judgmental; feeling addicted to meditation; uncomfortable kinaesthetic sensations; mild dissociation; feelings of guilt; psychosis-like symptoms; grandiosity; elation; destructive behavior; suicidal feelings; defenselessness; fear; anger; apprehension; and despair.

Excerpt, Physiological Effects section: "In summary, it seems that meditation has a bimodal biological impact along time. Initially there is a physiological relaxation response in the short term. This effect also corresponds with findings in the study of imagery on brain activity as described by Laine et al. (1997). More enduring hormonal and metabolic changes can later be detected in experienced meditations, some 12 to 18 months after starting meditation practice."

Excerpt, Side-Effects section: "Not all effects of the practice of meditation are beneficial. Shapiro (1992) found that 62.9% of the subjects reported adverse effects during and after meditation and 7.4% experienced profoundly adverse effects. The length of practice (from 16 to 105 months) did not make any difference to the quality and frequency of adverse effects. These adverse effects were relaxation-induced anxiety and panic; paradoxical increases in tension; less motivation in life; boredom; pain; impaired reality testing; confusion and disorientation; feeling 'spaced out'; depression; increased negativity; being more judgmental; and, ironically, feeling addicted to meditation.

"Other adverse effects described (Craven, 1989) are uncomfortable kinesthetic sensations, mild dissociation, feelings of guilt and, via anxiety-provoking phenomena, psychosis-like symptoms, grandiosity, elation, destructive behaviour and suicidal feelings. Kutz et al. (1985a,b) described feelings of defenselessness, which in turn produce unpleasant affective experiences, such as fear, anger, apprehension and despair."

STUDY:   Otis, Leon S. Adverse effects of transcendental meditation. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (722 pages). Edited by Deane Shapiro and Roger Walsh. New York: Aldin Publications, 1984, p204.

This study by Otis at the Stanford Research Institute involving 574 subjects revealed that the longer a person practiced TM the more adverse mental effects were recorded; that 70 percent of subjects recorded mental disorders of one degree or another.

STUDY:   Castillo, Richard J. Depersonalization and meditation. Psychiatry; Interpersonal and Biological Processes. May 1990, pp158-168.

A study of six long term TM practitioners that reveals their acceptance of depersonalized states of existence because they were led to believe this shows spiritual growth from the TM program.

From a review of the literature on meditation and depersonalization, and interviews conducted with six meditators, this study concludes that: 1) meditation can cause depersonalization and derealization; 2) the meanings in the mind of the meditator regarding the experience of depersonalization will determine to a great extent whether anxiety is present as part of that experience; 3) there need not be any significant anxiety or impairment in social or occupational functioning as a result of depersonalization; 4) a depersonalized state can become an apparently permanent mode of functioning; 5) patients with depersonalization disorder may be treated through a process of symbolic healing -- that is, changing the meanings associated with depersonalization in the mind of the patient, thereby reducing anxiety and functional impairment; 6) panic/anxiety may be caused by depersonalization if catastrophic interpretations of depersonalization are present.

AFFIDAVIT:   DeNaro, Anthony D. Counselor at Law. Twelve-page affidavit. Sea Cliff, New York, July 16, 1986.

Former MIU legal counsel and professor of law and economics, and former MIU director of grants administration. Excerpts from the affidavit:

"A disturbing denial or avoidance syndrome, and even outright lies and deception, are used to cover-up or sanitize the dangerous reality on campus of very serious nervous breakdowns, episodes of dangerous and bizarre behavior, suicidal and homicidal ideation, threats and attempts, psychotic episodes, crime, depression and manic behavior that often accompanied roundings (intensive group meditations with brainwashing techniques)."

"The consequences of intensive, or even regular, meditation was so damaging and disruptive to the nervous system, that students could not enroll in, or continue with, regular academic programs."

"He [Maharishi] was aware, apparently for some time, of the problem, suicide attempts, assaults, homicidal ideation, serious psychotic episodes, depressions, inter alia, but his general attitude was to leave it alone or conceal it because the community would lose faith in the TM movement."

STUDY:   French, Alfred P. et al. Transcendental meditation, altered reality testing and behavioral change. A case report. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1975, p55.

This paper presents the case of a thirty-nine year old woman who experienced altered reality testing and behavior several weeks after initiation into the TM program. It presents important evidence for a causal relationship between the practice of TM and her abnormal behavior.

STUDY:   The Various Implications Arising from the Practice of Transcendental Meditation: An empirical analysis of pathogenic structures as an aid in counseling. Bensheim, Germany: (Institut fur Jugend Und Gesellschaft, Ernst-Ludwig-Strasse 45, 6140.) Institute for Youth and Society, 1980 (188 pgs).

Excerpts from the
full study :

4.3.3 TM has a detrimental effect on the decision making process. There is loss of self-determination and a turning toward the TM authorities for guidance, i.e. in the case of important decisions. Also, the variables, facial expression, bodily posture, voice and handwriting point to the fact that the total personality is gravely altered under the influence of TM.

4.5.4 Whereas before the TM phase performance at school was well above average, and those investigated were most happy with their school or job situation, a considerable worsening in these areas occurred as a result of the practice of transcendental meditation. 56% had decreased concentration abilities during the TM phase, only 16% reported an improvement. 61% found it more difficult to manage the workload, as against 13% who reported an increased capacity. TM had a negative influence on the professional careers of 58% of meditators. Altogether 28 meditators (42%) gave up their studies or professional career in order to work full time for the TM movement or to be able to go on long courses. They did this on the basis of promises made them by the movement. An analysis of the taped interviews and the stenographer's scripts only serve to strengthen the suspicion that the TM organization aims at cheap labor, which in the case of those people who became unfit to work in the course of time, can be sent away again without any real difficulty.

4.6.6 In 76% of cases psychological disorders and illnesses occurred, 9% of meditators had had therapeutic treatment before the TM phase, 43% had psychiatric treatment or had to have medical treatment during the TM phase. The psychological disorders most prevalent were tiredness (63%), "states of anxiety" (52%), depression (45%), nervousness (39%), and regression (39%). 26% had a nervous breakdown and 20% expressed serious suicidal tendencies. Psychological illness already present before the TM phase worsened considerably. TM can cause mental illness or at the very least prepare the way for the onset of mental illness. A lack of opportunity for the treatment of meditation experiences and/or altered perception of reality create suitable conditions for a pathogenic appearance. Added to this is the heightened delicacy and increasing helplessness in the personality of the meditator, which can develop into a complete depersonalization.

5.6.4 The suspicion grows that the meditation offered by TM, caused, in the meditators' cases which we have investigated, a far reaching alteration in the view of reality, which damages or causes further damage to social relationships, the drive to achieve (motivation) is considerably lessened, to the degree that practical work (i.e. in a job) becomes intolerable to the meditator, in addition to all conditions brought about by the intense practice of the meditation, it gives rise to physical and mental damage.


The ruling of the highest federal administrative tribunal, the Bundesverwaltungsgericht on May 24, 1989 in Case number 7 C 2.87 is:

1) The Federal Government is competent and allowed to care about cults.

2) The Federal Government is allowed to warn of TM.

3) The Federal Government is allowed to designate TM a "Youth Religion" as well as a "Psychogroup".

4) The Federal Government is allowed to say that TM is taught by teachers who are not qualified [to deal with the TM problems].

5) The Federal Government is allowed to say, TM can cause psychic defects or destruction of personality.

STUDY:   Glueck, Bernard and Charles F. Stroebel. Meditation in the treatment of psychiatric illness. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (722 pages), edited by Deane Shapiro and Roger Walsh. New York: Alden Publications, 1984, p150.

This study of 110 subjects discloses that the release of repressed subconscious impressions [stress] from the TM practice can be handled by some but has also been seriously destabilizing for others.

BOOK:   Hassan, Steven. Combatting Cult Mind Control. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 1988.

General and specific treatment of the modus operandi of cults which includes the TM movement, the appeal tactics used by cults, common terminology, general cult psychology, case histories of former cult members including TM movement examples, intervention and exit strategies.

ARTICLE:   Hecht, Esther, Peace of Mind. Jerusalem Post, 01-23-1998, pp 12.

Excerpt: "That very proliferation of new religious and secular groups, however, gave rise to a government-appointed commission that concluded TM can be dangerous in some cases. In 1982 - at the urging of concerned parents and a haredi anti-missionary group - the then education and culture minister, Zevulun Hammer, appointed the Interministerial Commission on New Religious Movements in Israel, headed by his deputy minister, Miriam Glazer- Ta'asa.

"According to the commission's report, which appeared five years later, TM works through a combination of placebo effect and hypnotic suggestion, though the organization is never explicit about this. Most people who learn TM stop meditating after a while and discontinue their contact with the organization. But those who continue are likely to take part in an advanced course for sidhis, or yogic flying, which involves long periods of meditation.

"The report cites Dr. Ruchama Marton, an Israeli psychiatrist, who says she treated a severely psychotic TM practitioner and that she knows of other such cases. Marton warns that though there is no proof of a causal connection, it appears that in some cases prolonged meditation may precipitate such a breakdown.

"The report adds that there is no screening by mental health professionals of candidates for yogic flying, and that the use of self-hypnosis without supervision by such professionals on hand to deal with crises is extremely risky."

STUDY:   Heide, Frederick J. and T.D. Borkovec. Relaxation-induced anxiety enhancement due to relaxation training. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1983, p171.

STUDY:   Heide, Frederick J. and T.D. Borkovec. Relaxation-induced anxiety: mechanism and theoretical implications. Behavioral Research Therapy, 1984, pp1-12.

These two papers by Heide and Borkovec disclose that 54 percent of anxiety-prone subjects tested experienced increased anxiety during TM-like mantra meditation.

CIVIL SUIT:   Kropinski, Robert. United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Civil Suit #85-2848. 1986

In his civil suit against the TM Organization, Kropinski reported incidents of alleged psychosis, suicides, and the drugging of course participants. The court document "Answers to Defendants' Interrogatories --John Doe I" contained this
list of TM victims. A Washington, D.C. jury awarded Robert Kropinski, 39, $137,890 to pay for his psychiatric treatment. Kropinski was an 11-year member who was part of Maharishi's personal entourage.

According to the January 14 (1987) Philadelphia Inquirer, the jury in the precedent-setting case found that the TM movement "defrauded him with false promises of mental bliss and neglected to warn him about the possibility of adverse side effects." Leon Otis, a staff scientist at the Stanford Research Institute, testified that after surveying hundreds of meditators he concluded that "TM may be hazardous to the mental health of a sizable proportion of the people who take up TM." And Gary Glass, senior attending psychiatrist at the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center, testified that Kropinski's 11 years in TM triggered a "pathological state" that left him disoriented and depressed.

STUDY:   Lazarus, Arnold A. Meditation: The Problems of Unimodal Technique. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives New York: Alden Publications, 1984, p. 691.

STUDY:   Lazarus, Arnold A. Psychiatric problems precipitated by transcendental meditation. Psychological Reports, 1976, pp601-602.

Based on clinical experience from these two studies, Lazarus shows that serious psychiatric problems can ensue from the practice of TM. He points out that TM is no panacea. He concludes that the TM practice can be used in some cases, but that it is clearly contraindicated in other cases.

BOOK:   Lifton, Robert J. Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Chapel Hill, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1989 (510 pages).

Last published in 1964, this is a newly reissued edition of the classic textbook and case study of the victims of thought reform and elements of the thought reform process. Chapter 22 outlines eight themes present in the sociological environment of thought reform which in time become internalized by victims, who in turn reinforce the themes socially. Many cults exhibit fewer than all eight themes. In the TM movement and at MIU, however, all eight themes are found to be richly developed.

STUDY:   Persinger, Michael A. Enhanced incidence of 'the sensed presence' in people who have learned to meditate; support for the right hemispheric intrusion hypothesis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1992, 75, pp1308-1310.

If the "sensed presence" is a transient intrusion of the right hemispheric equivalent of the left hemispheric (and highly linguistic) sense of self, then any process that facilitates interhemispheric electrical coherence should enhance these experiences. As predicted, the "ego-alien intrusion" (sensed presence) factor was specifically and significantly elevated in 221 people who had learned to meditate (65 to 70% were involved in transcendental meditation) compared to 860 nonmeditators.

Experiences of sensed presence were more frequent in female than in male meditators and were particularly evident in left-handers who had learned to meditate. The effect size suggests that learning a meditation technique is contraindicated for subpopulations, such as borderline, schizotypal, or dissociative personalities who display very fragile self-concepts.

STUDY:   Persinger, Michael A., Laurentian University. Transcendental meditation and general meditation were associated with enhanced complex partial epileptic-like signs: evidence for 'cognitive' kindling? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1993.

Personal Philosophy Inventories of 221 university students who had learned to meditate (about 65% to 70% practiced transcendental meditation) were compared to 860 nonmeditators. Meditators displayed a significantly wider range of complex partial epileptic-like signs. Experience of vibrations, hearing one's name called, paranormal phenomena, profound meaning from reading poetry/prose and religious phenomenology were particularly frequent among meditators. Numbers of years of TM practice were significantly correlated with the incidence of complex partial signs and sensed presences but not with control, olfactory, or perseverative experiences. The results support the hypothesis that procedures which promote cognitive kindling enhance complex partial epileptic-like signs.

BOOK:   Persinger, Michael A, Norman J. Carrey and Lynn A. Suess. TM and Cult Mania (198 pages). North Quincy, Massachusetts: Christopher Publishing House, 1980.

"Claims of the TM effects are neither unique nor special but are the consequences of procedures associated with suggestion, placebo reactions, simple relaxation, neurotic belief, and the mislabeling of vauge emotional experiences. In this book we investigate the precise psychological and social procedures by which this movement manipulates human behavior." p.7

Chapter 4: "All TM Effects Can Be Produced By Suggestibility/Placebo Conditions"

“Included here are scientific research abstracts, books, articles and other material Demonstrating the harmful effects from Transcendental Meditation”
Misconceptions About Hypnosis as a Special State
  • Personality Characteristics of Very Responsive People
  • Factors Influencing "Hypnotic" Responses
  • Comparison of TM and Hypnotic/Placebo Effects
  • Are TM Adherents Just Highly Suggestible?
  • TM Conditioning as Stages in Suggestibility

  • Chapter 9: "TM: Trigger to the Psychotic Prone?"
    • The Problem of Psychosis
    • TM: Philosophy and Psychosis
    • Meditation and Psychotic Triggering