Friday, January 12, 2018

Enlightenment's Evil Twin: The Pit of the Void

In 1974 Hans Burgschmidt was sixteen years old, living in the Canadian Prairies, working in a photography studio darkroom, elbow-deep in chemicals all day long. "Is this what life is about?" he asked a high school friend. "You need to meditate," was the reply. Not long after, Hans attended a lecture at the local library, where a man in a suit spoke about the scientific benefits of relaxation. He pressed Play on the industrial-sized U-Matic video player and there was Maharishi Mahesh, the Indian yogi who initiated the Beatles into the mysteries of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and launched the meditation careers of thousands of Western devotees.

"An infinite ocean of peace and love and happiness awaits you," said the radiant Maharishi, with his flowing hair and his garland of flowers. "What's not to like?" Hans thought, and got in touch with a local TM chapter.

Soon after he began his meditation practice, exactly as advertised, he found himself transported from his parent's basement into a shimmering inner space of light and colour and bliss. "Eventually you get so expanded and the mantra becomes so refined that you are taken to the silent source of thought – it was wonderful."

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