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Early research on Transcendental Meditation finds fourth major state of consciousness: Dr David Orme-Johnson
by David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D.

Transcendental Meditation Magazine    Translate This Article
11 June 2012

Dr. David Orme-Johnson* continues his review of the scientific research on Transcendental Meditation. He describes the pioneering research of Dr Keith Wallace, published in 1970 in the journal Science, which first established the physiological profile of Transcendental Meditation as a unique state of deep rest combined with quiet inner wakefulness. Dr Orme-Johnson's first study, ''Autonomic Stability and Transcendental Meditation,'' was published in 1973 in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Please see Part I of this article, 'The science behind the experience of enlightenment: Measuring the immeasurable'.

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The Early Research. In March 1970, Dr. Robert Keith Wallace published in the journal Science his seminal Ph.D. thesis on the physiology of TM practice. Dr. Wallace found that the TM® technique produced an entirely new state of consciousness, different from waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.

Like sleep, it was a state of deep rest, as indicated by reduced metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate, and other changes. But the EEG (brain waves) showed a pattern of quiet inner wakefulness, not sleep. Dr. Wallace showed that the physiological pattern produced during TM practice closely matched ancient descriptions of a fourth major state of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness, which he called ''a wakeful hypometabolic state,'' or simply ''restful alertness.''

The deep rest and rejuvenation seen during TM practice explained why after meditation one had faster reactions, improved complex perceptual-motor ability, improved memory and learning ability, decreased blood pressure, decreased drug abuse, and increased self-actualization, as shown in other studies inspired by Dr. Wallace's work.

Figure 1. This diagram illustrates the 4th state of consciousness at the silent basis of the active mind. During Transcendental Meditation practice, the active mind progressively settles down, as illustrated by the bubbles becoming more refined, in an inward journey called transcending. When the mind transcends the subtlest thought, it experiences unbounded awareness, Transcendental Consciousness, the 4th major state of consciousness. See also 'The Quest for Enlightenment: Transcendence in the Lives of Great Seers and Thinkers', by Dr. Craig Pearson.

My First Research: Practitioners of the TM technique have less stress. My own Ph.D. was in experimental psychology. When I learned the TM technique, I was teaching part-time at the University of Texas at El Paso, and during a class demonstration of habituation of the startle response to a very loud noise, I noticed that students who practiced Transcendental Meditation habituated about twice as fast as non-meditating students. The meditators also had a simpler, more elegant, faster physiological response to the noise, and even when resting with eyes closed showed fewer spontaneous responses to their own inner stress. During meditation their internal stress responses decreased even more.

This was a Eureka moment for me. Here was a way to objectively measure the amount of stress a person had and his or her reaction to stressful experiences. TM practice decreased both. I was inspired to do a formal study on ''Autonomic Stability and Transcendental Meditation,'' which was published in 1973 in Psychosomatic Medicine, a leading journal in the field.

Dr. David Orme- Johnson and Dr. Fred Travis
discussing an EEG brainwave image.

In those early days, we scientists interacted a lot with the founder of the TM technique, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and he wanted to know all the details of my research on autonomic stability.

He was particularly interested in all the factors correlated with this one finding, such as reduced anxiety, increased psychological resilience (ego strength), broad comprehension and improved ability to focus (field independence), and greater ability to withstand and recover from physical stress.

Together with other researchers, Dr. Wallace and I created a chart book of the dozen studies available at that time, with simple explanations of the research for the general public.

Click here to watch a video of Dr. Orme-Johnson discussing the body of 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

* 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.

© Copyright 2012 Maharishi Foundation USA

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