Book Review

Laozi, the Buddha, Plato, St. Teresa of Avila, Wordsworth, Emerson, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Black Elk, Einstein—throughout history, great men and women have described sublime experiences of extraordinary wakefulness, freedom, and bliss, as different from our ordinary waking experience as waking is from dreaming. 

In his new book, The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How to Cultivate Them, Craig Pearson, PhD, shares transcendent experiences representing a wide range of times, cultures, and religions. The book is one of the most comprehensive anthologies of such experiences ever assembled.

But Dr. Pearson goes further. He explains how they can be understood and categorized using Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s model of seven states of consciousness. And he shows how anyone can cultivate the same kinds of sublime experiences celebrated by some of history’s great geniuses simply by practicing the effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation.

Dr. Pearson is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management and the author of The Complete Book of Yogic Flying. Here he talks about what inspired him to write The Supreme Awakening and his experience along the way.

archive18-stories_02Linda Egenes: What inspired you to write this book?

Dr. Pearson: I’ve always been fascinated by people’s experiences of higher states of consciousness. Early in my meditating career, I came across a passage from Wordsworth describing a transcendental experience and found that quite remarkable. I started looking for more, and I found them. I began putting a few of these in University publications—and saw that other people found this interesting too.

I soon realized that there is a scientific hypothesis in this, namely that the capacity to experience higher states of consciousness is universal. If this is true, it should be possible to find descriptions in the writings of great people of different cultures. I pursued it more seriously, and eventually it became the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation and now a book.

Linda Egenes: What was your research method? How did you find the writings of more obscure people such as Dov Baer of Mezericht from the Ukraine, for instance?

Dr. Craig Pearson: It was like panning for gold, sifting through lots of gravel to occasionally find a gold nugget. I’ve lost track of the countless books I’ve combed through to find these experiences.

I found ways of narrowing the search. For example, there’s the whole field of mystical and religious experience, which includes experiences of the kind I was looking for. Books on this topic yielded more frequent nuggets. Books on the creative process turned up a few.

Other times I would just have a hunch. For instance, I hadn’t seen references to Helen Keller in my research, but I thought about the unique life she led, blind and deaf from the age of two, yet rising to become one of the most important people of the 20th century. I read all of her books and found some really beautiful experiences of transcendence. In reading the books by and about these people, and especially reading how they describe these intimate experiences, I felt like they became my friends.

Sometimes I felt that their experiences were trying to find me. I was browsing through a Lands’ End catalog, reading a photo essay in the center about the Kashmir goats in Mongolia that provide the wool for the company’s sweaters—and suddenly found the writer describing a beautiful experience of a higher state of consciousness. I ended up corresponding with him.

Another time, close to publication, I was walking through the Fairfield Public Library and chanced to pick up a book on a display shelf. I opened to a random page—and there was a statement from Jesus, from the New Testament, clearly describing the experience of a higher state of consciousness. I thought, “How could I have missed this?” I felt as if this passage did not want to be omitted.

Linda Egenes: One interesting theme came through in your book, that these transcendental experiences are beyond words.

Dr. Pearson: A number of people said this—even after expressing their experience in the most beautiful, poetic words. The French playwright Eugene Ionesco wrote, “Words can only disfigure” the experience.

Imagine being color-blind in a color-blind world, then suddenly, for a few moments, glimpsing color. How can you describe color to someone who hasn’t yet experienced it? And how much more difficult it must be to describe a different state of consciousness. Higher states of consciousness entail a completely different mode of experiencing one’s self and one’s environment.

So while the words of Ionesco and Wordsworth and so many others are glorious, we should not imagine we understand the experience of higher states of consciousness just by reading these words. You have to have the experience.

Linda Egenes: Was this an elusive experience for most people—something they spent the rest of their lives searching for?

Dr. Craig Pearson: I believe that some people in the book—Laozi and Shankara come to mind—were well established in higher states of consciousness. Maharishi has made the point that there have been enlightened people in every age. But most people in the book seemed only to glimpse these states. Many wondered where the experience came from and how they could get it back.

Linda Egenes: This brings us to Maharishi’s contribution.

Dr. Craig Pearson: Yes. First of all, Maharishi has given us the Transcendental Meditation technique, which is a simple, natural, effortless procedure for cultivating these experiences. This is an incredible gift, because until now these experiences have been extremely rare, fleeting, and unpredictable. Now anyone can systematically develop them.

Second, Maharishi has given us a new model of human development that includes seven states of consciousness altogether—four higher states beyond the three familiar states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. This gives us a powerful way of understanding and categorizing these experiences.

And finally, we have all the scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, which Maharishi strongly encouraged from the first. Research on the TM technique really means research on higher states of consciousness, higher human development. The findings here have been unprecedented.

And what comes out of the research is that higher states of consciousness are not a matter of some mood or dream or poetic flight of fancy. They are real experiences, contingent on achieving certain thresholds of integration and purification of the brain and body. They have a unique physiological basis.

Linda Egenes: Can you say a little more about higher states of consciousness and enlightenment?

Dr. Craig Pearson: By higher states of consciousness, we mean more expanded creativity, expanded intelligence, and even more important, expanded experience of the Self and the universe around us—far beyond anything we experience in the ordinary waking state, even on a good day.

Maharishi named these four higher states Transcendental Consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness, and Unity Consciousness. Each higher state is a progressive stage of enlightenment. The fourth state, Transcendental Consciousness, is what we experience during our daily Transcendental Meditation practice. The fifth state, Cosmic Consciousness, is what we are cultivating day by day through our daily TM practice. The sixth and seventh states grow naturally out of these.

Each higher state of consciousness is as different from the waking state as waking is from sleeping or dreaming. Maharishi refers to “the seven worlds of the seven states of consciousness.” That drives home the point that each state of consciousness, starting with waking, sleeping, and dreaming, presents us with an utterly different world of experience from the others. At the same time, each one is completely natural and normal, a quantum expansion of our unlimited potential.

This is a developmental model. Maharishi has described the dynamics of how each higher state builds on the previous one. We now have a clear and detailed picture of how human development progresses beyond the adult waking state.

Linda Egenes: So reading this book could be a great way for people who already meditate to understand their own experiences better?

Dr. Craig Pearson: Also a great way to introduce people to the Transcendental Meditation technique. It’s important for people to see that the TM technique offers far more than relief from stress and anxiety, or lowering high blood pressure, as important as those things are. Those things are early stepping stones on the way to fulfilling our highest potential as human beings. The ultimate goal is enlightenment.

Linda Egenes is co-editor of Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation® Magazine. She is the author of five books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 18. Reprinted with permission.)


As my husband and I drove home from a family trip in the light of the full moon, I pulled out my review copy of Jack Forem’s Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and read the introduction aloud. Wrapped in the warmth of the author’s exquisitely crafted story, we were transported back in time to the early days of the TM® program, when Jack Forem first met Maharishi and was inspired to write America’s first book on the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with Jack Forem 1975

Seven years in the making, the original book was published in 1973 by Dutton and instantly became a best-seller and beloved classic, inspiring thousands of people to begin the practice. This new edition, written nearly forty years later and published by Hay House, will capture the imagination of those who started meditating in the early days and those who have just begun.

Filled with inspiring words of wisdom from Maharishi, interviews of practitioners of the TM® technique, quotes by famous people from Einstein to Oprah, and references to the Vedic literature of India—from which this tradition of meditation originated—the book illuminates fundamental principles underlying the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

The book also dives deeply into the scientific research on TM practice, brilliantly distilling dozens of research papers published in leading academic and medical journals. And with Maharishi’s profound insights, it answers age-old questions concerning the goal of life, religion, and spirituality, the psychology of relationships, higher states of consciousness, and world peace.

Jack Forem became a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in Rishikesh, India, in 1970. He served as the head of the TM Center in New York City and later worked directly with Maharishi writing educational materials, teaching TM teacher training courses in Europe, and leading conferences and seminars on the development of creativity, leadership, and higher states of consciousness. The son of two writers, Jack is a professional writer with a dozen published books.

Here, Jack Forem speaks about his experience in updating his classic work and his creative process as a writer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 11.06.52 AMEnlightenment: What were the biggest changes you made to the original book and why?

Jack Forem: I wanted to revise it because I felt there was so much more scientific research on the TM program and global expansion of the Movement now. The first book was fine for its time, but now it seemed too small. It needed to be painted on a bigger canvas.

I thought it would take two months, but it took two years. The deeper I went into it the more I found that was new. When the first book was published, there were only a few research studies on TM practice. Now there are 350 published studies, most of them peer-reviewed. To convey the essence of a research study is not an easy job—it took time for me to understand each study and to make it clear and readable to others.

My process was to interview more people, to read more, and to see if the old things seemed as important as the new developments. Now people are more aware of the value of meditation and the ideas of evolution of consciousness and enlightenment. Back 40 years ago, these ideas were new to most people. So I didn’t want to dwell on the basics as much—I wanted to talk about the deeper aspects.

Enlightenment: What is a typical day like for you as a writer?

Jack Forem: I don’t have a typical day as a writer. I try to put in at least a few hours writing, but some days I just can’t. So much of what you do as a writer is not writing—you think about things, you read, you do research. It’s not like I work from 9 to 12, or 9 to 5. I’ve never been able to do that. It’s not my way.

I once was sitting in a room with Maharishi with a small group of people and we were writing something. Someone said, “Maharishi, we should have a staff of writers working full-time.” And he laughed and laughed and he said, “Writers can’t work full-time.” He looked at me when he said it.

Sometimes I write a quick first draft and when I go back and look at it, I might throw the whole thing away. Usually there’s enough good in it to revise it. Other times I work very slowly, sentence by sentence, and make sure it’s right before I move on. It depends on the material.

Enlightenment: How has the TM technique helped you as a professional writer?

Jack Forem: TM has helped me by giving me deeper insight. Being able to think at subtler levels and to understand what Maharishi is saying has helped me to express the knowledge better.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say when I’m working. Then I will either meditate or naturally let my awareness settle down and that helps me find a direction—what I want to say next or how to say it better.

Enlightenment: What benefits from TM do you notice now compared to when you learned 46 years ago?

Jack Forem: Now I rarely get upset—things are very smooth. But if there is anything upsetting or difficult in my life, meditation helps me dissolve my anxiety or worry; it resolves anything unpeaceful inside.

Basically I feel pretty good. (Laughs.) I wouldn’t have been able to say that before I learned TM. There’s an underlying stability, a sense of Being or pure consciousness, that I definitely did not have earlier.

Enlightenment: What three things would you like people to remember after reading your book?

Jack Forem: First, I’d like people to realize that through this knowledge, enlightenment is a real possibility for anyone.

Second, the technology that Maharishi has developed for world peace is the great hope of humanity and the world. I didn’t fully realize how effective those programs are for creating harmony, coherence, and peace until I started reading the research on collective consciousness. I am profoundly impressed.

And finally, I want people to realize that this knowledge came from Maharishi. He has provided a path to enlightenment and a better world for all of us to enjoy. He wouldn’t have asked for the credit, but I like to give it to him.

Linda Egenes is a professional writer and the co-author of Super Healthy Kids – A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 10. Reprinted with permission.)