Thursday, November 10, 2016

50 years ago: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi underwhelms Edmonton on his first visit to the city

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20

As late as November 1966, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was still so obscure that he could attract only 125 to his first public appearance in Edmonton, and it was relegated to the bottom of page 43 of The Edmonton Journal. The article below doesn't specify, but I suspect that with a crowd that small, the meeting didn't even take place in the concert hall part of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, but in the basement, in what is now the Kaasa Theatre.

The Maharishi's movement had been incorporated in California in 1959 under the name Spiritual Regeneration Movement and had an explicitly religious emphasis, but by November 1966 the Maharishi had figured out how to combine eastern spirituality with western desires for physical health and material success, and the brand name Transcendental Meditation had probably been adopted by this time. For further reading, see my post 50 years ago: Then-obscure Maharishi Mahesh Yogi tours Canada (September 30, 2013).

As reported by Art Sorensen of The Edmonton Journal, November 11, 1966 (bold in original):

Yogi sells bliss at $50 a course

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Thursday night said he sells the secret to happiness for $50.

For that price a single adult can reach a state of bliss through a process of transcendental meditation, he said.

Preaching the doctrine that no man is born to suffer, Maharishi told a public meeting they would start feeling better as soon as they enrolled in his three-lesson course.

The native of India founded the International Meditation Society at Madras, India in 1957 and says he brought bliss to over 100,000 people since then.

But he wasn't about to drop any hints Thursday night in the Jubilee Auditorium.

Instead Roland Umiker of Calgary will return next Friday to pass on the message to those who can afford it.

Membership 300

Donn McRae of Calgary, provincial president of the society, said the group was organized in Alberta in 1964 and built up a membership of about 300 in the Stampede City.

"But only about 50 of these are considered active in the art now."

Maharishi explained that transcendental meditation takes a person to the source of thought itself--pure intelligence.

This is claimed to bring conscious awareness, more energy, more intelligence, more happiness and better health.

Sitting on crossed legs and playing with a flower, the bearded meditator hinted the process starts with a single thought--"implanted in the mind of the initiate by the teacher who is trained to give the word."

An Hour Daily

After the initiation two thirty-minute periods of meditation a day are required to keep happy.

President McRae said he follows this routine closely.

Although $50 per single adult is charged for the course, a man and wife can get the same instruction for the same price. A student is charged $15.

Many of the 125 plus crowd at the meeting left with the feeling they could perhaps find happiness other ways.

As one University student commented, "I'd have complete happiness if I had $50."

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