Medical Corps, United States Army Reserve


Topic approved by

Kenneth W. Womack


The views expressed in this academic research paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or any of its agencies.

U.S. Army War College



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Bio of Colonel Brian M. Rees, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Corps, US Army Reserve

Col. Brian Rees, M.D.COL Brian M. Rees, M.D., M.P.H. is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the US Army War College. He has 31 years of commissioned military service. COL Rees is the former commander of the 349th Combat Support Hospital in Bell (Los Angeles), California. In 2004, Dr. Rees was called to active duty and deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. In 2005, he was deployed to Afghanistan where he served as the Brigade Surgeon for Task Force Guardian and as the Chief Medical Officer for the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (home of all the Taliban and Al-Qaeda detainees). In Winter/Spring 2006, he was deployed again as the head of outpatient medicine for the detainees at Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq. In June 2007, COL Rees returned from another deployment as the Battalion Surgeon for the 310th Military Police Battalion at Camp Bucca, Iraq. COL Rees is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. Dr. Rees is a board certified family physician who received his medical degree and masters degree in public health from Tulane University. He has taught the Transcendental Meditation technique and researched the deployment of technologies of consciousness for the reduction of violent conflict. COL Rees builds a case for using these human resource-based technologies to prevent terrorism and war is his book, Terrorism, Retaliation and Victory: Awaken the Soul of America to Defeat Terrorism Without Casualties. His other book, Heal Your Self, Heal Your World, is on the topic of Ayurvedic medicine. A profile, including a video of Colonel Rees, is available on The Official US Army Recruiting Website. Dr. Rees was the subject of a feature article entitled "Army Doctor Proactive in Trying to Keep Patients and Society Healthy" published in the 05 April 2004 issue of Stars and Stripes. He co-authored the article "Homeland Security with Unified Field-Based Defense Technology" published by Defence India. COL Rees recently gave a presentation at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania about SSM (see "The Applications of Strategic Stress Management in Winning the Peace."). COL Rees gave a presentation about SSM at the Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. (AMSUS) convention on 12 November 2007. See his coauthored 7 February 2009 editorial published by The Huffington Post on the topic of Invincible Defence Technology.


AUTHOR: Colonel Brian M. Rees

TITLE: The Application of Strategic Stress Management in Winning the Peace

FORMAT: DDE Research Paper

DATE: 2 May 2007  



Colonel Brian M. Rees, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Corps, US Army Reserve

Although the US is preeminent in maneuver warfare, success in current (and probable future) counterinsurgency operations is hampered by the infectious ideology of the enemy.  But the stress and frustration necessary to fuel the insurgency and Islamist terrorism are enemy critical vulnerabilities.

Strategic Stress Management (SSM), in the form of groups of persons practicing a meditative technique called the TM-Sidhi Program, can be applied to reduce hostilities in targeted populations.  The underlying hypothesis is that consciousness is a field, and that effects generated in the field of consciousness can affect the brain chemistry, the thinking and the subsequent behavior of potential belligerents who are not engaged in or even aware of the practice.  This hypothesis has been tested in over fifty studies that have documented reductions in combat deaths, crime, and terrorist acts related to the size of the groups practicing the intervention.

As a prospective Course of Action (COA), SSM is suitable and feasible, and readily distinguishable from virtually any other COA.  However, it is unorthodox, and its acceptability is uncertain.

To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill.  To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.

-- Sun Tsu

The Armed Forces of the United States are without peer in maneuver warfare.  They dominate the battlefield and consistently prevail in the conventional operational and tactical setting.  Yet, they find themselves so far unable to achieve strategic victory in Iraq and in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). 

The need to prevail in Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction Operations (SSTRO) and counterinsurgency operations is paramount.  Advocates of the concept of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) say the US is now engaged in the only type of war it has ever lost: a multi-year long struggle against a highly motivated, often but not exclusively low technology, networked insurgency.

Clausewitz said “The first task… in planning for war is to identify the enemy’s centers of gravity, and if possible, trace them back to a single one.”[1]  Initially, the enemy Center of Gravity (COG) would have been the person, the wealth, and the organizing power of Osama bin Laden.  But the enemy COG has morphed; it is now a malignant ideology of extremist Islam, an ideology that empowers systems such as a networked insurgency in Iraq, and global terrorism; both phenomena sharing implacable hostility to liberal social mores.  The ideology is energized by American behavior, but is also fueled by a number of external factors that have no simple fixes: poverty, unemployment, the prevalence of poor governance in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the perception of America’s role in that conflict, to name but a few. 

In order to defeat the insurgency in Iraq and the terrorist networks of global reach connected to or inspired by al-Qaeda, the coalition must, if not extinguish this ideology, at least diminish the violence the ideology precipitates.  Baron Antoine Henri De Jomini observed that the excited passions of a hostile people are themselves a powerful enemy, and thus both the general and his government should use their best efforts to allay them.  Drawing from the emerging doctrine of Effects Based Operations (EBO), an effect the US seeks is an absence of violence.  This virtually defines security and is the basis of the objectives of stability and the establishment of civil society. 

General Sir Frank Kitson noted that the main characteristic that distinguishes stability and reconstruction operations from other forms of war is that “they are primarily concerned with the struggle for men’s minds.”[2]  In the battle for minds, brains themselves are nodes, and it is the thesis of this paper that the relationships among minds are links that can be influenced by operations within the field of consciousness that connects them all.  The collective thinking of the population within which an insurgency or a hostile ideology persists may be regarded as a critical system or function that is an accessible decisive point.

Hammes states that leadership of 4GW organizations “recognizes that their most important function is to sustain the idea and the organizations.”[3]  Among the critical requirements for terrorism and the insurgency is a flow of recruits ready to fight, die and even suicide for radical Islam.  Chaos and sectarian parochialism and violence constitute self-perpetuating cycles that enhance the production of such future combatants.  But the stress and frustration that contribute mightily to the availability of such recruits are enemy critical vulnerabilities.


Strategic Stress Management (SSM), in the form of groups of persons practicing a meditative technique called the TM-Sidhi Program, can be applied to reduce hostilities in targeted populations.  The underlying hypothesis is that consciousness is a field, and that effects generated in the field of consciousness can affect the brain chemistry,[4] the brain activity,[5] the thinking and the subsequent behavior of potential belligerents who are not engaged in, or even aware of, the meditative practice. 

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a purely mental technique, introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1950s.  It is practiced with eyes closed for about 20 minutes twice a day.  This technique is taught in a very standardized fashion, which makes it amenable to scientific evaluation.  To transcend is to go beyond; meditation is thinking; according to the origins of this technique in the Vedic tradition of India, TM is a technique for going beyond thought, for residing in the field of pure consciousness, the source of thought.

Vedic is derived from Ved or Veda; it is a Sanskrit term simply translated as ‘knowledge’ or ‘science’, but ultimately it refers to a fundamental field of existence from which all forms and phenomena of nature arise.  The nature of this field of consciousness as defined by the Vedic tradition is identical to the unified field of all the laws of nature identified by quantum physics.[6]  It is a self-interacting field that is without boundaries, all pervading, unchanging, eternal, awake and dynamic within itself, the home and source of orderliness, intelligence, creativity and organizing power, “a continuous medium which is present everywhere in space.”[7]  This idea has gained currency in modern physics for many decades.[8]  Max Planck, for whom the Planck scale is named, and who early in the 20th century first described the quantum nature of subatomic reality, said: “I regard consciousness as primary.  I regard matter as derivative of consciousness.”[9]

While the concept of a field of consciousness is subtle, most people are familiar in everyday life with fields that mediate effects remote from the cause.  A child’s magnet moves iron filings via the magnetic field; anyone who has adjusted the rabbit ears atop a television was trying to capture better the signal being propagated from the TV station through the electromagnetic field.

Social scientists generally envision social interactions as linear and Newtonian.  That is, unless someone talks to someone, shoots someone, gives someone a job or some money (or influences someone else who performs these actions), or in some way tangibly deals with someone else, there is no meaningful interaction among these people.  This model sees people interacting the way billiard balls interact on a pool table.  One ball hits another and hits another, and, in this way, the interaction is propagated; otherwise, ‘a miss is as good as a mile.’  The Vedic tradition has an extensive theoretical underpinning beyond the scope of this paper to encompass; but from that Vedic perspective, consciousness is not like a pool table, but more like a bathtub.

A simple analogy can help.  Visualize a bathtub that is calm and has floating in it a dozen or so corks.  If one pushes down on one cork, then let it go, it begins to bob up and down.  As it bobs up and down, even though it’s not touching any of the other corks, it propagates some effect through the field of the water that causes all the other corks to respond by bobbing up and down.  This is analogous to the field effect of consciousness.  The idea is: influences generated in the consciousness of individuals or groups can have effects on the consciousness of people who are not involved in the specific intervention being done.  So, people meditating, for instance, can have effects on persons not meditating, and can generate influences of coherence in society at large.

In TM, the mind follows its natural tendency to transcend gross superficial levels of thought, experience subtler levels, transcend them, and reside in pure consciousness as noted.  An advanced elaboration of TM, the TM-Sidhi program allows the practitioner to reside and act and generate influences within those subtler levels of thought; superficial to the Transcendent, but still, strata that are less differentiated, more energetic and more powerful than are the more superficial levels.  That influence has effects on the subtler levels of thought of everyone within the operational reach of the intervention, and can thus change their gross thoughts and subsequent actions. 

Influences generated in the TM-Sidhi program have both local and non-local effects.  Researchers note that: 

Political units reflect greater homogeneity, closer personal ties, more frequent interactions, and stronger internal lines of influence (cultural, emotional, and economic, as well as political) than those across [political] boundaries and hence cannot be ignored in calculating the ‘spread’ of predicted coherent effects on collective consciousness and behavior….  Our common experience with such everyday field effects as transmission of radio or television waves tells us that local conditions (including weather, the terrain, and other electromagnetic sources, such as power lines) affect patterns of transmission across large areas.  The proposed intimate connection between consciousness and the unified field would support similarly uneven patterns of influence due to local boundaries in collective consciousness.[10]

[Synonyms for the phenomena generated by groups of TM-Sidhi practitioners include: Invincible Defense Technology, Coherence Creating Groups, Maharishi Effect, Superradiance Effect, Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field (MTUF), Social Stress Abatement Technology (SSAT), Consciousness Based Defense Technology, and Unified Field Based Defense Technology.  This paper will use Strategic Stress Management, as the term seems more accessible to those not conversant with TM organization terminology.]

One could derive from the Vedic literature, the texts of ancient India, the following hypothesis: a certain number of people meditating in an area will change the trends in the surrounding population.[11]  The minds thus affected will manifest more of the orderliness and intelligence intrinsic to the field of consciousness, increasing positive influences and decreasing negative ones. 

Tat sannidau vairatyagah

“In the vicinity of Yoga, enmity ceases.”
-Yoga sutra, 2.35

This hypothesis was first put to the test back in the 1970s when 24 cities in the United States were found to have one percent or more of their population practicing TM.  These ‘one percent’ TM cities were compared with 24 comparable cities that did not have one percent of the population practicing TM.  Those cities that reached the one percent level had trends toward decreased crime rates, increased employment, and enhanced quality of life.[12]

The hypothesis from the Vedic literature further predicted that this ‘super-radiance’ or ‘coherence creating’ effect would be stronger when generated by persons practicing the TM-Sidhi Program.  The prediction was: while one percent of the population practicing TM would generate this effect of coherence significantly enough in the environment to induce changes in the behaviors of persons not practicing the technique, the same effect would be generated when only the square root of one percent of a given population was practicing the TM-Sidhi Program.

This introduced the practical possibility of actually mobilizing teams of individuals practicing the TM-Sidhi Program and sending them to trouble spots in the world.  This was accomplished on a number of occasions, and the effects were documented prospectively.  That is, certain trends were evaluated, particularly in places that were hotspots during the 1970s and 80s, such as South Africa, Nicaragua, Iran, Lebanon, and Israel.  Teams of TM-Sidhi Program practitioners were inserted into these areas times of social disturbance.  These teams were found to be able to decrease disorder in society and increase coherence and positivity.  It was further noted that when the teams were removed from these areas problems tended to resume.  This finding was replicated multiple times to a high degree of statistical significance.  Next, groups established in certain cities in the United States demonstrated decreases in crime rate and other indices of social disorder and distress, and increases in indices of improvement in quality of life.  Indeed, 51 such studies involving this coherence creating effect have been performed, and the effect was found to be significant in all of them.[13]

Limitations of space preclude a review of all 51 studies.  Three however can be representative.  These three deal with the effects of the TM-Sidhi program on the violence of war, crime, and terrorism, respectively.  Two are prospective; all three were published in peer reviewed scientific journals. 



In the summer of 1983, Israel was deeply involved in Lebanon, and was taking casualties.  The researchers tested this approach by establishing in Jerusalem a group of TM-Sidhi practitioners, about the square root of 1% of the population size they were trying to influence.  In advance of the study they lodged their outcomes predictions and methodology with independent review boards in both Israel and North America.

Most salient among the dependent variables (dependent in that they were to vary depending upon the independent variable, which was the size of the coherence group) were war deaths and ‘war intensity,’ derived from news content analysis.  (Other factors measured included crimes, accidents, fires, the Israeli stock market performance, and ‘national mood’, as indicated by the tone of the daily front page newspaper story, read by different observers who were blinded as to the number of people in the meditation group.)  They also measured variability; that is, if the coherence-creating group was effective, everything should generally improve and variability among measures should decrease.  If the group were having no effect, then some things might improve, some get worse, just in their random way, and variability would be usual or ‘normal.’

Care was taken in designing the study to minimize confounding factors, and to account for those influences that couldn’t be controlled, such as for holidays, temperature, weekends, and so forth.  The study lasted from August to September 1983.  The independent variable fluctuated from 65 to 241 participants.


There were seven separate deflections of the independent variable during the experimental period; movement of the dependent variables in the predicted direction accompanied each deflection.  Variability decreased as predicted.  Overall, there was a 76% decrease in deaths, (p = 0.0004), and 45% less intensity.  There was also an “improvement of national mood;” quality of life measures and economic indices significantly improved, in concert with the size of the intervention group.[14]


The second study was conducted in the United States over the summer of 1993 in Washington DC.  It was rigorous, larger, and had similarly robust results.  The hypothesis in this case was that the insertion into the District of Columbia of a group of persons practicing the TM-Sidhi Program would lead to reduction in violent crime and social stress and improvement in the effectiveness of government.  Specifically, based on the population of Washington, DC, it was predicted that bringing in 4,000 practitioners would lead to a decrease in violent crime of 20 percent in the District of Columbia over the period of the study. 

The independent variable was the size of the group, which grew from June through July of 1993.  The cardinal dependent variables were violent crimes (homicides, rapes and assaults, or “HRA”), as well as public approval of presidential performance.  The study was executed in concert with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, which supplied the crime data (a member of the DC police was a co-author of the paper).  The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy’s Research and Evaluation Division analyzed the statistics, using what is called time-series analysis, and controlling for weather, daylight, crime trends, and so forth.  The study was overseen by an independent project review board of scientists from leading institutions around the country.[15]


In the first month of the project, crime rates dropped modestly.  There were about 1,000 TM-Sidhi practitioners in the group at that time.  In the fifth and sixth weeks, the numbers increased to 2,500, and by the end of the demonstration project, the last two weeks of July 1993, there were almost 4,000 people participating in the demonstration.  At the culmination of the assembly, when the group was largest, actual crime (HRA) decreased markedly below the predicted level.[16]  This decrease was 23.3% (p<0.000000002); using a longer baseline back to 1988, the drop was 24.6%.  Public approval of the President changed from a negative to a positive trend (p<0.00002).

After the assembly ended, the effect decayed, and crime eventually returned back to its predicted level.  The model used predicted that, had the group not disbanded, crime rates would have been reduced by 48 percent in subsequent months, and that a larger group or the same group working for a more extended period would have brought about greater decreases in crime.


During the time frame 1983 through 1985, there were three large assemblies of persons practicing the TM-Sidhi program, in Iowa, Holland, and Washington DC.  Ranging from 8 to 11 days in length, and with 8000, 6000, and 5500 participants respectively, these assemblies were large enough (approaching or exceeding the square root of 1% of the world’s population) to have global coherence creating effects.  In this retrospective study, researchers looked at Rand corporation data on the numbers of casualties and fatalities due to terrorism during 1983-1985, and performed time series analyses to determine drops in terrorism, if any, during the assemblies.  They also evaluated data from standardized date-blind ratings of news from major newspapers to determine effects on international conflict.  The researchers controlled for seasonal, year-end, and other possible confounding factors. 


There was a 72% drop in terrorism (p<0.025), and 32% less international conflict (p values from <0.005 to <0.025) during the assemblies.[17]  The Capitol International World Stock Index increased during each assembly (p<0.025).


In view of the unorthodox nature of this approach, policy makers will want to explore alternative explanations for the noted effects.  These include five:

·         Association versus causality

·         Confounding factors

·         Cause versus effect

·         Coincidence, luck.

·         Fraud

Some scientists have demonstrated overt hostility toward this body of work.[18]  But objective reviewers of the research data have been satisfied that these potential alternative explanations have not been responsible for the findings in these studies.[19]  A comment by a leading expert in the field of peace studies and conflict resolution, Ted Robert Gurr, emeritus professor of government and politics at the University Maryland, is representative of the reactions of those who have impartially reviewed this body of research:

In the studies I have examined on the impact of the Maharishi Effect on conflict, I can find no methodologic flaws, and the findings have been consistent across a large number of replications in many different geographical and conflictual situations.  As unlikely as the premise may sound, I think we have to take these studies seriously.[20] 


It is not the purpose of this paper to develop a complete Course of Action (COA).  But before SSM in the form of the TM-Sidhi program can be seriously regarded as a potential course of action, it should meet the tests of suitability and adequacy, feasibility, acceptability, and distinguishability.  Though this technology of consciousness has been demonstrated to have efficacy in a wide variety of settings, for purposes of simplicity and illustration, this COA will be applied to the current mission in Iraq.  The bare bones of this COA would be the insertion of a group or groups of TM-Sidhi practitioners into Iraq for the purpose of generating the SSM effect.  While this COA could stand alone, it is compatible with, and practically it would almost certainly be in addition to, many other steps the coalition would be taking; SSM and any other COA are not mutually exclusive.  


SSM is compatible with the commander’s guidance.  The US seeks “an Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure.”[21]  Rather than kinetic, SSM is nonviolent.  Rather than employ the strength of the ‘one-armed Cyclops’[22]  in combat operations, proponents submit that SSM is a dimension of soft power, the softest power, involving not economic coercion, not the confrontation of diplomatic negotiations, nor even the efforts of changing minds through information operations.[23]

There is no opportunity to generate collateral damage; indeed the data indicate favorable second and third order effects.  American strategy includes building “stable pluralistic and effective national institutions” and a “sound and self-sustaining economy.”[24]  Many of the studies on the TM-Sidhi program document benefits in the areas of effective governance and improvement of economic indices.13


According to the “Frustration/Aggression” Hypothesis, war is born as follows: “The man in the street, with his lust for power and prestige thwarted by his own limitations and the necessities of social life, projects his ego upon his nation and indulges his anarchic lusts vicariously.”[25]  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (hereinafter, just, “Maharishi”) has a related but somewhat different take:

All occurrences of violence, negativity, conflict, crises, or problems in any society are just the expression of growth of stress in collective consciousness.  When the level of stress becomes sufficiently great, it bursts out into large-scale violence, war, and civil uprising necessitating military action.[26] 

Kinetic solutions to problems born of such dynamics may be elusive.

Metz states that 21st century insurgency includes not only the regime and the insurgents, but is characterized by the growing role of what he calls “third” and “fourth” forces, all affecting the conduct and outcome of the conflict.  “Third forces were armed organizations sometimes affiliated with either the insurgents or the regime….  They included militias, criminal gangs, warlord armies, and various kinds of death squads….”[27]  Fourth forces were unarmed nonstate organizations such as nongovernmental organizations and the media, such as Al-Jazeera.  He further notes “Dealing with third and fourth forces make for a different type of conflict and require a different strategy for which existing doctrine is little help.”[28]  The three studies previously cited demonstrate efficacy in the arenas of war, crime, and terrorism, as well as economics and politics, and support the contention that SSM can accomplish its part of the mission[29] “within the established time, space, and resource limitations.”[30] 

A proposal has already been made for a group of TM-Sidhi experts to operate in Iraq to address the threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).[31]  Based on the population to be affected (the approximately 29 million minds in Iraq), the square root of 1% would be 540.  One challenge to counterinsurgency efforts is the fact that “Insurgents do not need all or most of the public to support them, but only a foundation of active support and passivity from the rest.”[32]  According to Maharishi, “It is the weakness and lack of coherent thinking in the civilian sector of a nation which produces the situation where military action and war become necessary.”[33] 

The over-engineered solution in the proposal was 1080 individuals, to account for vacations, illness, participant turnover, and so forth.  Based on previous trials, proponents expect fatalities due to hostile action to drop by over 70% within six weeks, with a concomitant decrease in conflict, improvement in governance, and increase in overall cooperation.  This should help reverse two of the unfortunate effects of the evolution of the insurgency: increasing the combat activities of US forces, resulting in “less time and fewer resources for other activities, including reconstruction,”[34] as well as increasing the number of Iraqis who believe the insurgents can defeat the US.[35] 

Effects are sustainable: there is no predicted ‘fatigue effect,’ and there is no known hostile ‘work-around’ to defeat this approach.  Rather, research indicates that the longer the group is sustained, the stronger the effect will become. 

Implementation could come in one of three (or more) forms.  Over 20,000 Americans have been trained in the TM-Sidhi Program.  Many of them are highly motivated to demonstrate the efficacy of this approach; contracting with a thousand of them should not be difficult.  Many more thousands worldwide are available as needed.  There is a subtle value added to training a thousand Iraqi nationals in the technique, as ties of kinship and culture should augment the SSM effect,10 as well as enhance Iraqi autonomy.  Such training would take about six months.  Training US service personnel or government employees, who could subsequently be utilized in other areas as needed, is another alternative.

The costs of the proposal are relatively modest.29 Initial deployment of the first thousand contractors was proposed to require approximately $17 million.  Maintenance of the group would run about $16.7 million per month, plus life support.  Training local nationals would cost more initially, but subsequent costs would be about $30 million per year. 

There would be positive second and third order effects to training soldiers in this technique (or in just ‘plain vanilla’ TM).  Compared to other techniques,[36] many medical and psychological benefits of TM have been documented,[37] including decreased heath care utilization and costs.[38]  TM has been shown to be of benefit in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)[39] and may serve to inoculate soldiers against PTSD.[40]

In the era of the ‘strategic corporal’ and the CNN Effect, it becomes increasingly important for soldiers at the tactical level to behave in a manner consistent with the highest moral values.[41]  TM practice is associated with greater development of “post conventional thinking,” a higher level of moral maturity.[42]  Criminals who learn TM are less likely to continue with crime, and not just criminals who may have selected themselves to learn TM and simultaneously opted to turn away from crime: repeat offenders who have been sentenced to learn TM have better outcomes.[43] 


Acceptability must be evaluated along two axes.  First the risk of employing this technology must be determined.  The enemy is clever, and if this is a weapon, one may anticipate that he will find a way to employ it against coalition forces.  Second, with an approach this unusual, the conservative nature of the military may inhibit its application. 

It is difficult to envision al-Qaeda or its progeny employing SSM.  Were they to do so, they would attenuate their own violent tendencies.  Paradoxically, the employment of SSM by the coalition may fulfill some of the more benign goals of radical Islam. 

Bin Laden’s center of gravity … lies in the list of current U.S. policies toward the Muslim world because that status quo enrages Muslims around the globe – no matter their view of al Qaeda’s martial actions – and gives bin Laden’s efforts to instigate a worldwide anti-U.S. defensive jihad virtually unlimited room for growth….  America’s support for [countries] against Islamists; its protection of multiple Muslim tyrannies; its efforts to control oil policy and pricing; and its military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and elsewhere – these are the sources of the infection of hatred spreading in the Islamic world.[44] 

While the implementation of SSM in Iraq may not affect US policies worldwide, the data indicate that SSM employed within the US would.[45]  The US could be expected to be less arrogant, less parochial, less driven by moneyed special interests and the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned of, and more respectful of other cultures.  Regarding its global role affecting all the world’s people, the US would adhere more to the guidance from Field Manual 100-20, in that the government “identifies the genuine grievances of its people and takes political, economic, and social actions to redress them.”[46]  The unguided hand of globalization (the US being its greatest engine) and the behavior of Friedman’s “Electronic Herd”[47] would be more life-supporting while generating less environmental degradation, promoting of wealth and prosperity without undue privatization and exploitation, and creating new financial opportunities without unnecessary destruction of traditional lifestyles.  These are the types of phenomena governed by “collective consciousness.”[48] 

Resistance to SSM on the part of the military is not to be assumed.  Regarding former commandant of the US Army War College, MG Franklin Davis:

Having begun the practice of the Transcendental Meditation program to test its efficacy for use within the military, General Davis recommended it as an antidote to stress in the armed services and as a possible deterrent to drug abuse. He said, “Transcendental Meditation has done a lot for me personally. My friends and colleagues and my wife say it has improved my disposition and my doctor says it's knocked my blood pressure down ten points...."[49] 

But there are aspects of this program that will present challenges to many, particularly in the following three areas.

Lack of verisimilitude: simply put, Strategic Stress Management in the form of the group practice of the TM-Sidhi Program just sounds weird.  The idea of stopping war by meditating seems to fly in the face of common sense.[50]  The data are compelling, but the concept is so extraordinary that it is easy to dismiss before taking the time to investigate the supporting research. 

Atypical world views: while researchers are wedded to the scientific method, many members of the TM organization representing the research results believe strongly in the value of their meditation.  This has led some people to question their objectivity.  Also, while not exclusively so, many are quite liberal and anti-war.  However, most are very respectful of the military and appreciate its role; indeed, Maharishi himself is of the kshatriya, or warrior caste.

Biases: TM is not a religion, as it requires no change in belief system or lifestyle, and is compatible with any religious observation.  Priests, rabbis and clergy of all religions practice it.  However, Maharishi himself is a Hindu monk.  Some decision makers may balk at embracing an approach whose primary proponent is an Indian guru.[51] 


Certainly this COA is readily distinguishable from any other.  No one is proposing anything even vaguely similar to the group practice of the TM-Sidhi Program.  But planners may wish to consider an alternate COA.  In the practice of medicine and psychology today, ‘stress management’ or ‘relaxation’ techniques abound, and are often lumped together as essentially interchangeable.  If TM and the TM-Sidhi Program are forms of stress management, and other techniques for stress management exist, then perhaps one of those other techniques (without the baggage of TM in terms of its origins, organization, nomenclature, and so forth) could be employed in Iraq for SSM. 

Data do not support the idea that all relaxation techniques are interchangeable; studies indicate that the domain of stress management techniques is actually quite heterogeneous.  Brain activity is different in different techniques,[52] and the results are different.[53]  Data from eight meta-analyses encompassing 597 individual studies of techniques (to include Zen, Benson’s relaxation response, biofeedback, and other forms of meditation and relaxation)33 show a wide variety of outcomes.  Throughout the range of findings, TM was found to have greater efficacy than any other technique in addressing an assortment of issues, to include decreasing trait anxiety, lowering blood pressure, more physiological relaxation, greater self-actualization, improved psychological outcomes, and decreased drug and alcohol abuse.[54]  Controlled prospective trials directly comparing TM and other techniques in different settings have yielded similar results.[55][56]

There is no analog among other techniques for the group practice of the TM-Sidhi Program and its societal effects.  In the absence of data, one cannot conclude that no other technique could achieve the same results.  That is, perhaps planners could employ another technique; but there are as yet no data available to support the contention that any other technique would obtain the results the TM-Sidhi Program has.


“The Americans are between two fires,” said the number two man of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 2004.  “If they remain [in Iraq] they will bleed to death, and if they withdraw they will have lost everything.”[57]  Uncertainties about the legitimacy of American motivations in invading Iraq have weakened popular support for the war; Operation Iraqi Freedom and perhaps the entire GWOT are at risk of failure.  Coalition war efforts may culminate due to an erosion of American national will.  Ongoing violence and attendant American casualties place additional political strain upon decision makers.

Avoiding Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” may require SSM.  The creation of an atmosphere of calm and coherence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world may enable moderate Muslims to win the war of ideas within Islam.  Establishing a similar influence in the United States may result in the adoption of policies less likely to provoke the emergence of future antagonists.  Advocates of SSM argue that, of all courses of action previously implemented or currently proposed for Iraq, based upon available data, this course of action (SSM) may be essential to accomplishing the mission.

SSM has demonstrated efficacy when addressing the nefarious activities of criminals and terrorists, as well as the legal violence of combatants.  This is fortunate, because a witches’ brew of these miscreants is the most likely opponent of American expeditionary forces in the 21st century.  As Metz observes, “By failing to prepare for counterinsurgency in Iraq and by failing to avoid it, the United States has increased the chances of facing it again in the near future.”[58] 

Strategic Stress Management in the form of group practice of the TM-Sidhi Program is effective in reducing hostile behavior in targeted populations.  The acceptability of this unconventional approach is an open question.


[1] Carl von Clausewitz, On War  (1832).  Quoted in US Army War College course 572, lesson 1, 2007.

[2] General Sir Frank Kitson, quoted in Andrew Garfield, Succeeding in Phase IV: British Perspectives on the US Effort to Stabilize and Reconstruct Iraq (Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia , PA, 2006) vi.

[3] Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, (St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004), 222.

[4] Kenneth G. Walton, Kenneth L. Cavanaugh, and Nirmal D. Pugh, “Effect of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Biochemical Indicators of Stress in Non-Meditators: A Prospective Time Series Study,” Journal of Social Behavior and Personality (2005): 339-373.

[5] David Orme-Johnson et al, “Intersubject EEG coherence: Is consciousness a field?” International Journal of Neuroscience 16, (1982): 203–209.

[6] Robert M. Oates, Permanent Peace (Fairfield, IA: Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy, 2002), 95-119.

[7] Fritjov Capra, The Tao of Physics, (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 1975).

[8] John S. Hagelin, “Is consciousness the unified field? A field theorist’s perspective.” Modern Science and Vedic Science 1, no. 1 (1987): 29-87.

[9] Oates, 122.

[10] David Orme-Johnson, Charles Alexander, & JL Davies, “The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field: Reply to a methodological critique.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 34 (1990): 756–768.

[11] Many examples from physics exist, such as lasers, and the Meissner Effect in superconductivity, which demonstrate that a small number of particles or waves behaving in a coherent manner can cause an entire system to behave coherently and resist extraneous disordering influences.

For more background, see Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi’s Absolute Theory of Defence, (India: Age of Enlightenment Press, 1995), 208-218.

[12] Michael Dillbeck, Garland Landrith III, & David Orme-Johnson, “The Transcendental Meditation program and crime rate change in a sample of forty-eight cities.” Journal of Crime and Justice,4 (1981): 25–45.

[13] A bibliography of 60 articles covering the 51 studies is available from [Editor's note: the new link for this page is:]

Internet; accessed 29 April 2007.

[14] David Orme-Johnson et al, “International Peace Project in the Middle East: The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 32, No. 4 (December 1988): 776-812.

[15] Despite the success of previous similar interventions in this matter, this demonstration project was met with some skepticism.  A Deputy Chief of the Washington DC Police was quoted as saying,

“The only thing that will reduce crime by 20 percent in the District this coming summer would be 20 inches of snow.”

Demonstrating a decrease in crime rate is not simple.  For example, if a charlatan wanted to take credit for a reduction in crime all he would have to do is walk into almost any town in July, say there is a terrible crime problem and promise that in six months he could reduce crime significantly.  Six months later, in January, crime would indeed be lower: but not due to anything he had done.  Crime would be lower because crime is virtually always lower in January than in July (with a few exceptions, such burglaries).  In the cited study, seasonal influences, influences of temperature, precipitation, weekend effects, number of hours of daylight, even hypotheses that geomagnetic fields have effects on crime were controlled for.  (It turns out that temperature is by far the most important factor.)

That is, a model was generated which could account for all fluctuations in crime rates over the previous year and a half or so, and once that model was demonstrated to account for those crime rates it was then viewed prospectively, looking forward, to see whether it would continue to account for changes in crime; and, indeed, this model did work.  As it turned out, the three primary considerations are: temperature, and less so, precipitation and weekend effects.  That is, the hotter the weather the more crime there is.  When it rains, there is less crime.

The researchers’ model showed that, accounting for the variables, crime will be within a certain range.  A particularly hot summer with little precipitation would be a higher-crime summer; an especially cool summer with high precipitation would be a lower-crime summer.  The nature of the prediction made by these researchers was that, whatever the crime rates were going to be based upon the statistical predictions, there would be a reduction in crime by 20 percent due to this intervention. 

This approach was reviewed by an independent review panel composed of scientists from the University of Maryland, University of Texas, Temple University, University of Denver School of Law, University of the District of Columbia, American University and Howard University.  Before the project was undertaken all these researchers signed off on it and recognized that if the intervention was going to have an effect this was the best way to measure it and account for it.

Emmanuel Ross of the Planning and Research Division at the District of Columbia Police Department said,

The data on violent crime used in the experiment was provided by the Police Department.  The experiment appears to have been competently undertaken and to be a good-faith effort on the part of the Institute of Science Technology and Public Policy and the Independent Project Review Board of Scientists formed to oversee the project.

Dr. John Davies is the Research Coordinator for the Center of International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland.  He was a member of the Project Review Board who evaluated the project.  He stated,

“The project design was rigorous, the analysis was conducted in a highly competent manner and the results are impressive.”

Other members of the review board commented as follows:

A Professor of Government from the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. David Edwards:

The claim can be made plausibly that the promised practical societal impact of this research significantly exceeds that of any other ongoing social-psychological research program.  For this reason alone the research along with the theory that informs it deserves the most serious evaluative consideration by the social science community.

Ann Hughes Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Government at the University of the District of Columbia also was impressed with the findings, and added:

“To a skeptic I would say, ‘What is your solution?’  I haven’t seen one yet.”

Dr. Beverly Rubik, Biophysicist and Director of the Center for Frontier Sciences at Temple University:

The data show an impressive, statistically significant correlation: a decrease in violent crime for the time period over which the group meditated.  An impressive number of variables were considered in analyzing the data and I’m satisfied that the research team made a serious effort to examine the data in the light of numerous other possible influences.

Quotes are from Robert Keith Wallace and Jay B. Marcus, Victory Before War (Fairfield, IA: Maharishi International University Press, 2005) iii-iv

Drs. Edwards and Hughes were not practitioners of TM (at least not at the time they made the statements).  This author does not know the TM status of the other members of the review board.

[17] David Orme-Johnson, Michael Dillbeck, & Charles Alexander, “Preventing terrorism and international conflict: Effects of large assemblies of participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 36 (2003): 283–302.

[18] Carla L. Brown, “Overcoming Barriers to Use of Promising Research Among Elite Middle East Policy Groups,” Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17, no. 1 (2005): 489-543.

[19] A. Association versus causality

There is an association between the sale of ice cream and rates of crime; this association does not establish a causal relationship.  Both increase in hotter weather.  But since they vary independent of each other, limiting ice cream sales would not be a fruitful avenue for crime reduction. 

B. Confounding factors

Research designers must take great care to control for the effects of confounding factors (such as weather, or increased police activity, or a new UN brokered peace deal, etc.).  A big part of the value of peer reviewed scientific journals is to keep results from poorly designed studies out of the scientific literature.  In the cited studies, there is no viable alternative mechanism postulated for the associations found between the size of the TM-Sidhi groups and violence reduction.

C. Cause versus effect

Particularly regarding the Jerusalem/Lebanon war death study, reviewers questioned the causal relationship of the intervention.  Specifically, they questioned whether the size of the group could have been influenced by the level of violence rather than vice versa.  Perhaps during increased hostilities, meditators rushed to the group meditation site, and when time and regression to the mean diminished the violence, the size of the meditation group only seemed to be responsible.  The researchers were required to do further statistical analysis pre-publication (transfer function analysis to produce cross-correlations), and satisfied the reviewers that the “direction of causation” was from the assembly to the dependent variables.

D. Coincidence, luck.

If you flip a coin a million times, somewhere in there it will probably come up heads 10 times in a row.  But it is very unlikely that it will happen during the only 10 tosses that you had chosen in advance to observe; not impossible, but very unlikely.  Studies are made large enough, and are repeated, in order to avoid having blind luck be the cause of positive findings.  Simply put, the “p” values cited reflect the likelihood of the finding being due to chance.  The threshold for ‘statistical significance’ is usually p<0.05; that is, if the likelihood of the findings being due to chance (rather than due to the intervention studied) is less than 5%, then that finding is statistically significant.  The p values in the three studies elaborated upon earlier were less than four per 10,000 in the Lebanon war death study, less than two in a billion in the crime study, and less than five per thousand in terrorism.  The chance that coincidence is responsible for the positive findings in all such studies is infinitesimally small.

E. Fraud

Integrity and honesty are the coin of the realm in scientific research.  However strongly an investigator may desire significant findings in his study, if he is caught falsifying data, his career is over.  The idea that varied researchers colluded over all these many years and managed to sneak lies past impartial (at times hostile) journal reviewers as well as oversight boards, is not credible. 

[20] Oates, 41.

[21] National Security Council, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (Washington, D.C.: The White House, November 2005), 1.

[22] Hoffman, Changing Tires on the Fly (Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA, 2006), vii.

[23] John Hagelin, video presentation, 11 April 2007; available from; Internet; accessed 1 May 2007. [Editors note: Click link for Transcription with full-sized images]

[24] National Security Council, 1-2.

[25] Niebuhr, quoted by John Garnett in, “The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace.” in Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies, ed. John Baylis, James Wirtz, Eliot Cohen, and Colin S. Gray (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002), 66-87.

[26] World Government News, 11:38.

[27] Steven Metz, Learning From Iraq: Counterinsurgency in American Strategy (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, January 2007), 46-47.

[28] Ibid., 81.

[29] The current mission in Iraq involves the “Stabilize” and “Enable Civil Authority” phases of operations, against an irregular threat.  While SSM would seem less relevant to the “Seize Initiative” and “Dominate” phases in conventional conflict, it is ideal for “Shaping” and “Deterring,” and should thus also have applicability against disruptive and catastrophic threats.  The thinking of a ‘super-empowered’ individual terrorist, a member of a ‘phantom cell,’ is beyond the reach of any conventional intervention.  Coalition forces and their enforcement organs can only hope to intercept him; they cannot deter him, control him, or dissuade him, if he is truly determined to carry out some terrible act.  Ultimately, the only defense against such persons will be to sway their thinking at the subtlest levels, levels they cannot close off, levels that SSM has been shown to be able to influence, regardless of culture and geography.

[30] U.S. Joint Forces Command, Commander’s Handbook for an Effects-Based Approach to Joint Operations, (Suffolk, VA: Joint Warfighting Center, 24 February 2006), III-12. 

[31] Personal electronic mail message from Dr. David Leffler to Brian Rees 12 April 2007.  Dr. Leffler’s contact information is available at; Internet; accessed 26 April 2007.

[32] Metz, 52.

[33] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi’s Absolute Theory of Defence, (India: Age of Enlightenment Press, 1995), 59.

[34] Metz, 35.

[35] Ibid., 37.

[36] David Orme-Johnson and Kenneth Walton K, “All Approaches to Preventing or Reversing Effects of Stress are Not the Same,” American Journal of Health Promotion 12, no.5 (May/June 1998): 297-298.

[37] Bibliography available from Internet; accessed 26 April 2007.

38 David Orme-Johnson, “Medical care utilization and the Transcendental Meditation program,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 49 (1987): 493–507.

39 James Brooks and T. Scarano, “Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of post-Vietnam adjustment,” Journal of Counseling and Development, 64 (1985): 212–215.

40 David Orme-Johnson, “Autonomic stability and Transcendental Meditation,” Psychosomatic Medicine,35 (1973): 341–349.

[42] S.I. Nidich, “A study of the relationship of the TM program to Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning”, Collected Papers on the Transcendental Meditation Program, 1 (1975): 585-593.

[43] Charles Alexander et al, “Transcendental Meditation in Criminal Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention,” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 36, nos. 1/2/3/4 (2003): 35-46

[44] Anonymous, Imperial Hubris (Dulles, VA: Brassey’s, 2004), 263.

[45] According to the emerging doctrine of Network Centric Warfare, (Office of Force Transformation, The Implementation of Network-Centric Warfare, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, 5 January 2005), 15-21) power flows from society, and the source of that power has become subtler, shifting from industry to information.  Warfare is recognized to have physical, informational, social, and cognitive domains; subtler than these and underlying them is the transcendental domain of consciousness.  The term Consciousness Age Warfare seems an oxymoron; yet, in addressing one of the components of Clausewitz’s triad, taming the blind natural force of the hostility of populations both in the US and in the Muslim world, advocates assert that this ultimate network can both calm Islamist extremism and enhance the coherence of US national policy to the point of minimizing conflict and promoting peaceful solutions in areas of disagreement.

[46] Department of the Army, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict, Field Manual 100-20 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Army, 1990), 2-18.

[47] Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 13.

[48] Oates, 83.

[49] Quoted in the website of the Center for Advanced Military Science, at:; Internet; accessed 26 April 2007.

[50] Dr. Robert Duval of West Virginia University was one of the peer reviewers for the war study from Jerusalem/Lebanon.  His editorial comments, published in the same edition of the journal (Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32 No. 4, December 1988), illustrate anticipated objections.

On the one hand, the claimed theoretical basis for the activity described, and the results… are anathema to one who considers himself a strong advocate of the application of scientific method in the social sciences….  The disturbing aspect of this piece is not that it is in print, but that it got there via the very mechanism [scientific peer review] that… should have screened it out.

For this reviewer, the primary lesson learned is that if a piece this unconventional can be supported with measurement and method, then perhaps there is a notable volume of research of a much more prima facie convincing nature that is no more valid than this piece on TM.

In essence, Dr. Duval finds the theory underlying the Maharishi Effect to be so unacceptable that he considers that the scientific process itself may be broken.  But he continues:

Therefore we are back to our dilemma.  Here we have an unconventional piece with high-quality design and methodology.

Yet if, by some strange chance, we are seeing a social-science equivalent of Einstein’s ‘spukhafte Fernwirkungen’ (‘spooky action-at-a-distance’…), then our perceptions of a Kuhnian ‘normal science’ of international politics are somewhat threatened.

Perhaps it is fitting to conclude this commentary by repeating a remark by Douglas Hibbs, who, more than anyone else, ushered in the use of Box-Jenkins techniques in political science.  “Ultimately, it is incumbent upon the critic to provide a better model.”

[51] At a presentation of this information at the Proteus Group at Carlisle Barracks in August 2006, one man mentioned that he couldn’t accept this approach because whenever he interrogated proponents on a difficult point, they often resorted to saying more or less: ‘because Maharishi says so.’  This author has heard Maharishi speak on numerous occasions, and can perhaps add an insight to this phenomenon. 

It is not uncommon for Maharishi to indicate for instance, that the English translation of some of the Vedic literature is utterly lacking in value.  Indeed, he often comments that it is the Sanskrit syllables themselves, the vibrational qualities of the sounds that are more significant.  In fact, the greatest value of the literature is to be found in the pure potentiality of the silence between the syllables.  These and similar types of observations are frequently somewhat opaque even to long term meditators.  Expressing them adequately can be a challenge, and when attempted, may end up sounding like, ‘because Maharishi says so.’

[52] Fred Travis, “Are All Meditations the Same?”, slide presentation from the Science of Consciousness conference, April 2006; available from; Internet; accessed 1 May 2007.

[53] David Orme-Johnson, “Comparison of Techniques Issue: Are all forms of meditation and relaxation the same?”; available from; Internet; accessed 1 May 2007. [Editor's note: This link has changed. The new link is:]

[54] The view of TM as being a form of relaxation is almost certainly incomplete.  Consider the origins of this technique: individuals of very settled attention meditating in caves in the Himalayas millennia ago.  They can be viewed as scientists of consciousness, plumbing the depths of their own awareness.  Rather than the classical Greek/Western objective approach to gaining knowledge, they employed the subjective approach, apprehending their own inner nature and identifying that as the nature of Nature as a whole.  Stress management and relaxation were probably not significant concerns.  Likely, it is an artifact of stressed fast paced 20th century western culture that TM is identified as relaxation and touted for its amelioration of hypertension and anxiety.  Derivative techniques such as ‘relaxation response’ demonstrate lesser efficacy regarding virtually all the metrics of stress management; there are no data available to indicate whether or not such techniques are influential at the level of the field effects of consciousness.

[55] Robert Schneider et al, “A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans,” Hypertension, 26 (1995): 820–827.

[56] Robert Schneider et al, “A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction in the treatment of hypertension in African Americans during one year,” American Journal of Hypertension 18, no. 1 (2005): 88–98.

[57] Daniel Byman, essay #3 in “Who Wins in Iraq?”, Foreign Policy (March/April 2007): 42.

[58] Metz, 86.