Although Amanda C. Pustilnik seems to have presented an objective view of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the recent Crimson article (Wednesday, October 27), I cannot help feeling that TM will look upon this article with favor--certainly as anything but "bad press." But for the occasional words of a TM malcontent and some doubtful aspersions on TM's "statistics," the article leaves one with the impression that TM is a "good thing." Believe me, it is not.
There are many destructive cults operating in and near Boston at this time, and some of them have targeted the college/graduate school age group. TM is one; others include Scientology, Unification Church ("Moonies"), Emin, and the itinerant group locally known as the New England Meditation Society. All of these groups practice some form of mind control, primarily through trance induction. TM is a prime example.
But what makes a cult a cult is not its techniques, per se, but the deception used in recruitments and the exploitation that follows, for example, the extremely high "fees" for "courses" given by these groups. A book called Combating Cult Mind Control by Steve Hassan (himself a former member of a cult) is widely available in bookstores and is an excellent primer on the methods and dangers of destructive cults, including a checklist of what constitutes a cult (TM fits the category).
I am sure most Harvard and Radcliffe students look upon cults as laughable frauds. However, there is a small percentage of vulnerable and highly talented people that the cults appeal to and recruit by the thousands each year, and Harvard is one of the chiefly targeted campuses for the cults referred to above.
I have seen very find (read: accurate and revealing) presentations on cult activity at Yale, with first-hand accounts by several persons directly involved. This particular article is anything but scrupulous in getting at the facts. Superficial journalism is worse than no journalism, and the article in question is a case in point. Though it seems doubtful that TM would lead to a debacle such as the Branch Davidian conflagration in Waco, Texas last summer, the slow disintegration of ego and self-esteem occasioned by the mind control of more "peaceable" cults can prove to be a living hell to those under its control.
One last point: The indiscriminate use of the word "meditation" is an invitation to trouble. Meditation can describe a serene contemplation of a beautiful flower, as well as a zombie-like trance induced by mechanical mental machinations. The phrase, "meditation is good for you" is about as meaningless as "milk is good for you." What kind, how much, and how often are qualifiers that are needed to validate such vague claims. Richard St. Clair '68