The COVID-19 pandemic has put societies everywhere under extreme stress, and collective stress is often a precursor to outbreaks of violence. Striking features of this global health crisis have been the collective anxiety of the population, the wide variations in the way governments have responded, and the varying degree of their success. While there is significant scientific research showing that meditation has a positive influence on the health and well being of individuals, is there any evidence that large-scale meditation can have a similar influence on societies in reducing stress and levels of violence?
"Yes" is the surprising inference from the authors of a new book. Published June 26, An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence provides evidence that the level of collective anxiety and tension in society, or incoherence in collective consciousness, is the key element, which determines the success or failure of a government in tackling crime, violence, social unrest and ill-health.
Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders describe how a rise in collective tensions spills over into increased social unrest, crime, violence, accidental deaths and hospital emergencies. They examine 20 peer-reviewed studies from over four decades, indicating that it is possible to neutralize or reduce stress in collective consciousness through the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and its advanced programs by a sufficient number of individuals, which is amplified in groups.
"These findings are more relevant now than ever before at a time of pandemic, protest, and social unrest," says Spivack, and offers three examples from the studies cited in the book. Each of these experiments consisted of sufficient numbers either meditating on their own or together for a period of weeks or months, and in some cases, years, in societies wracked by violence: on 93 experimental days in Lebanon between 1983 and 1985, Cambodia between 1990 and 2008, and the USA between 2007 and 2010 compared with the previous four years. In each case measured statistically, significant drops in violence occurred during the periods when the numbers meditating were above the predicted threshold.
The authors emphasize this is the first book that draws on all the peer-reviewed research and looks at the implications of the research as a whole rather than just individual papers. "Compiling so many consistent experimental results may indicate more than a statistical correlation; it justifies further research into a causal hypothesis."
Written for the social scientist and the lay reader alike, An Antidote to Violence offers answers to key questions, including: does group meditation actually influence society? If so, how does it work? What is the evidence? What do skeptics say?
Weaving together psychology, sociology, philosophy, statistics, politics, physics and meditation, the book provides evidence that we have the knowledge to reduce all kinds of violence in society by creating coherence in collective consciousness and thereby neutralizing collective stress.
In his introduction to the book, quantum physicist Dr. John Hagelin, and President of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace, suggests "the existing research, while compelling and rigorous, presents a direct challenge to established mainstream sociological paradigms and may be difficult for some to accept. Even more rigorous and repeated testing of the theories presented here is therefore essential to ensure widespread acceptance of this demonstrated sociological phenomenon."
In the Foreword to the book, Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, and author of the NY Times bestseller, Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation, writes: "Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders have opened our eyes to an entirely new vision of possibilities about human potential that is both sweepingly grand but also immediate and practical."
Changemakers Books publisher Tim Ward was struck by the book's thought provoking premise and explained his reasons for publishing it. "While the evidence gathered in this book is striking, more research needs to be done to prove it true. And that's why I chose to publish An Antidote to Violence. Too much is at stake to let this possibility slip through our fingers. Just as we must explore every scientific means for beating COVID-19, so we must follow every lead for defeating the virus of violence."
Barry Spivack was invited to speak about his new book to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Indian Traditional Sciences in the UK, Sunday, June 21, the International Day of Yoga 2020. Speakers will include High Commissioners and Members from both Houses of Parliament.
Research provides evidence consistent with a causal interpretation
Establishing causality in the social sciences is difficult. "Nevertheless," says Spivack, "there are at least 6 reasons why the research provides evidence for the hypothesis that Transcendental Meditation reduces conflict and divisions in society, and improves economic performance, which is consistent with a causal interpretation."
1) Repetition: There are 20 peer-reviewed studies, which show statistically significant results.
2) There is a dosage effect--the bigger the group the larger the impact.
3) The independent variable--the numbers practicing Transcendental Meditation--often varies at random in these experiments so you get a repeat effect within the same experiment whenever the relevant threshold of numbers is passed within the same study.
4) Studies have controlled for other possible causes in social changes, such as population density, median years of education, per capita income, the ratio of police per population, weather, holidays, seasons, political events, percentages of people in the age range 15-29, of the unemployed, of those below the poverty line, and of people over 65.
5) Normally unconnected variables, such as crime, accidental deaths, infant mortality, deaths from opioids, all move in the same direction at the same time when the relevant threshold of people practicing Transcendental Meditation is surpassed.
6) The independent variable--the numbers practicing Transcendental Meditation and its advanced programs--changes before the dependent variables change, such as crime or war fatalities or the misery index.
What people are saying about An Antidote to Violence
I was initially skeptical that such a simple solution could be effective. However, after examining the evidence, I changed my mind. An Antidote to Violence is a serious and well-researched book that offers an unconventional but effective peaceful solution to violence and terrorism.
Lieutenant General Clarence E. McKnight, Jr, Former Director of Command, Control and Communications Systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington DC
This book is especially good at discussing the evidence and the alternative explanations that have been advanced for the results. I can recommend the book to all readers with an open mind.
Huw Dixon, Professor of Economics, Cardiff University
Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders address the problems of preventing violence and war with a high level of professionalism, and, by examining a means to achieve sustainable peace supported by long-term research, have created a book that is hugely relevant. Most importantly, they highlight the interdependence of power, violence, security, and individual and collective consciousness. This book will be extremely useful for people of all nationalities, regardless of their status, different religious beliefs, personal preferences and life strategies. The theoretical and methodological principles outlined here deserve to be studied carefully and disseminated in the world.
Lieutenant General Vasyl Krutov, former First Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine and First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine
My most sincere congratulations to the authors for their research and presentation of this book. I hope it will be read and applied by leaders of government and by all in general for the good of society and each person in particular.
Lieutenant General José Martí Villamil de la Cadena, former Chief of Staff of the Army and Commander of Ground Theatre Operations, Chief of Staff of the Joint Command, Vice-Minister of Defence, and General Secretary of the National Security Council in Ecuador
Based on hard evidence corroborated by rigorous scientific studies, ...the book compiles an array of incredible success stories from all over the world in an easily readable style for all those interested in addressing the monumental challenge of eradicating violence and conflict.
Ved P. Nanda, Professor of Law, University of Denver