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The science behind the experience of enlightenment: Measuring the immeasurable
by David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D.

Transcendental Meditation Magazine    Translate This Article
16 February 2012

David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D., was a founding faculty member and chair of the department of psychology at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa, USA for over two decades. Dr. Orme-Johnson has published over 100 scientific papers on the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi® programs and is co-editor of Volumes 1 and 5 of Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: Collected Papers. He is a nationally recognized researcher on human potential and currently serves as a consultant on research on meditation.

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In Western civilization, the word ''enlightenment'' has been associated with an 18th-century philosophical movement that emphasized the use of reason to analyze the validity of social doctrines and traditions, and which brought about many humanitarian reforms. Over the centuries, this movement has evolved into the objective approach of modern science—the systematic use of reason, controlled observation, and inferential mathematics—that has ''enlightened'' our world with so many technological advantages. In the Vedic and Buddhist traditions of the East, enlightenment refers to the highest stage of human development gained through subjective technologies of meditation.

I was a skeptical undergraduate at Columbia University. My class on meditation and Eastern thought left me with the conclusion that the path to this questionable state of enlightenment was highly austere, demanded arduous control of the mind, and required giving up the world of material comforts. Enlightenment was seen to be irrational, impractical, or at best attainable by only a few dedicated souls.

Soon after I got my Ph.D. in experimental psychology, I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique and suddenly— everything changed.

From the very first meditation I felt my mind settling down with a glowing comfort infusing my physiology. That afternoon my wife Rhoda and I took our two-year old son Nate to a children's park. I felt completely relaxed. All my senses were alive. I was in the moment with an expanded awareness, alive to the beauty of the day, freed from a paranoia that I often felt in open spaces. I saw that not only did I feel good but I was also having a positive effect on my family and environment, and that made me feel good about myself.

I started having deep insights into the meaning of things—e e cummings' poetry, the Bible, calculus, my research—whatever I put my attention on. Old habits that used to control my life just fell away. In some of my deepest meditations I felt my thoughts transcend into unbounded awareness and bliss. . . .

Was this a taste of the freedom the ancient texts were referring to—less suffering, no longer being pushed and pulled around by fears and conditioned reflexes? I had to know.

I spent the next 40 years of my life dedicated to the rigorous scientific investigation of this experience.

Click here to watch a video of Dr. Orme-Johnson discussing the scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Global Good News will continue to feature excerpts from Dr. Orme-Johnson's article, The science behind the experience of enlightenment.

Source: Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation Magazine

© Copyright 2012 Maharishi Foundation USA

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