[Source: “Meditating to Try to Lower Crime Rate,” New York Times, 1 August 1993]
By the States News Service
Published: August 01, 1993
THE silence was earsplitting. Less than 100 yards away, cars and buses honked on a busy avenue in a Washington neighborhood known for indiscriminate gunplay. But with eyes closed and minds “floating,” nearly 60 men, women and children concentrated on not concentrating.
Legs crossed, they lined up in rows on a foam pad in a dimly lightedcollege gymnasium. Trying to wipe their minds free of any thoughts, they focused on a silent mantra that only they could hear.
More than 4,000 practitioners of transcendental meditation, including more than 12 Long Islanders, went to Washington on a six-week mission to slash the crime rate in neighborhoods like the one in Washington. “We came to do this experiment, and the experiment is to show that if individuals do this technique, they can positively influence their world,” said Raymond Prohs, 39, of Northport, who started meditating in Washington on June 7. ‘Larger Level of Consciousness’
Mr. Prohs, chairman of the Long Island Capital of the Age of Enlightenment in Northport, said meditation could reduce violence by creating “a powerful influence on the larger level of consciousness.”
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By focusing their electromagnetic brain waves in Washington, the disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi say, they hope to reduce homicide, assault and theft by at least 20 percent. “Preliminary statistics” from the group say violent crime dropped 23.6 percent in the first four weeks. But a spokesman for the police would not comment on that assertion, adding that the murder rate had remained steady. The project ended yesterday.
Scattered about Washington at sites like the Washington Hilton and college campuses, the participants engaged in two daily meditation sessions, which lasted two and a half to four hours.
“What we do as a group together is we create a very powerful influence on the larger level of consciousness,” Mr. Prohs said. “Without going into your house personally, we can affect what goes on in your house.”
He said he had been meditating for 19 years.
By silently focusing on a mantra, meditators say, the mind detaches itself from the thinking process, overcoming thoughts and experiences to reach a stage of “pure consciousness.” In that stage, the advocates add, they are able to direct their energy toward reducing crime.
Bill Graeser, 36, also of Northport, is a “soft-rock” musician and meditation teacher. He said he hoped not only to reduce the crime rate, but also to reap inspiration for his songwriting. Like Mr. Prohs, he is staying at Gallaudet University.
“Everything, every force field in the nation is a part of an underlying intelligence,” said Mr. Graeser, who has been practicing Transcendental Meditiaton for 14 years. “It’s called the washing-machine effect. We’re washing the stress out of the environment.”
Washington was a logical place for the experiment, he said, “because this city is the most important city in America.”
Maharishi International University of Fairfield, Iowa, sponsored the project. Although the director, Dr. John Hagelin, said he had raised $4.2 million, participants not among the 1,000 or so on “scholarship” paid $400 to $900 for room, board, and “course” expenses for two-week stays.
Dr. Hagelin said he would request a $20 million Federal grant for future projects. “This may be the most far-out project we have endorsed, but it may the most important,” he said.
“You raise the whole consciousness, the consciousness is going through the galaxy, every word coming through your mouth is traveling through the galaxy,” said Mila Urana, a homemaker from Fort Salonga who recently returned from a two-week visit. “Everything is positive.”