Maharishi Mathematics

By Sean Carroll | March 15, 2007 11:03 am

It’s that time of year when eager young students are deciding where to embark on, or to continue, their higher educations. You can see our advice-giving posts on choosing an undergraduate school and choosing a graduate school.

But there are a lot of options out there, and it would be a shame to overlook any of them. So we’d be remiss not to mention the unique opportunities offered by the Maharishi University of Management. Founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, spiritual advisor to the Beatles, and led by John Hagelin, highly-cited theoretical physicist and occasional Presidential candidate, the MUM offers a — did I already mention “unique”? — set of experiences to the enthusiastic student. And that’s not even counting the Yogic Flying!

Here, for example, are some of the course descriptions for the undergraduate major in mathematics.

Infinity: From the Empty Set to the Boundless Universe of All Sets — Exploring the Full Range of Mathematics and Seeing its Source in Your Self (MATH 148)

Functions and Graphs 1: Name and Form — Locating the Patterns of Orderliness that Connect a Function with its Graph and Describe Numerical Relationships (MATH 161)

Maharishi Vedic Mathematics: Mathematical Structure and the Transcendental Source of Natural Law (MATH 205)

Geometry: From Point to Infinity — Using Properties of Shape and Form to Handle Visual and Spatial Data (MATH 267)

Calculus 1: Derivatives as the Mathematics of Transcending, Used to Handle Changing Quantities (MATH 281)

Calculus 2: Integrals as the Mathematics of Unification, Used to Handle Wholeness (MATH 282)

Calculus 3: Unified Management of Change in All Possible Directions (MATH 283)

Linear Algebra 1: Linearity as the Simplest Form of a Quantitative Relationship (MATH 286)

Calculus 4: Locating Silence within Dynamism (MATH 304)

Complex Analysis: Transcending the Real Numbers to a Simpler and More Unified Numbering System (MATH 318)

Probability: Locating Orderly Patterns in Random Events to Predict Future Outcomes (MATH 351)

Real Analysis 1: Locating the Finest Impulses of Dynamism within the Continuum of Real Numbers (MATH 423)

Set Theory: Mathematics Unfolding the Path to the Unified Field — the Most Fundamental Field of Natural Law (MATH 434)

Foundations of Mathematics: The Unified Field as the Basis of All of Mathematics and All Laws of Nature (MATH 436)

Now, sure, any old university will be offering courses in real analysis and set theory. But will they learn about the unified field, and locate the finest impulses of dynamism? “Vector calculus” sounds kind if dry, but “Unified Management of Change in All Possible Directions”? Sign me up!

Nobody ever said the Maharishi wasn’t a good salesman.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia, Humor, Mathematics
  • B

    Hi Sean,

    I used to find this stuff funny, but nowadays it more than concerns me. They make quite an effort to give their ‘theories’ an appearance of similarity to established theories (e.g. by writing down fancy Lagrangians or arguing that Yogic flying has something to do with superconductivity and repelling the gravitational force lines etc). Though to us this is obviously nonsense, I’ve more than once had conversations with people – also in academics but not physicists – who simply weren’t able to tell whether or not any of that makes sense.

    e.g. read this abstract, read it TO THE END:

    Aspects of the flipped unification of strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions.

    We explore phenomenological aspects of a recently- proposed Flipped SU(5) x U(1) supersymmetric GUT which incorporates an economical and natural mechanism for splitting Higgs doublets and triplets, [...]We find typical values of M sub{G} [in the range] 10 superscript{15} to 10 superscript{17} GeV, with M sub{SU} somewhat higher and close to the value suggested by string models. We discuss different mechanisms for baryon decay, finding that the dominant one is gauge boson exchange giving rise to p to e sup{+} pi sup{0}, bar nu pi sup{+} and n to e sup{+} pi sup{-}, bar nu pi sup{0} with partial lifetimes ~10 sup{35 ± 2} y. We show that a large GUT symmetry-breaking scale [...] We analyze the low-energy effective theory obtained using the renormalization group equations, [...] Analysis of the dark matter properties of the theory shows that the LSP decays before cosmological nucleosynthesis, [...]

    Finally, we show that the definition of the unified field provided by Maharishi’s Vedic ScienceSM supports the identification of the unified field with pure consciousness, [...] Source: DAI, 52, no. 06B, (1991): 3119

    Scary, eh?


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  • T

    Certainly as funny as the Muffin Joke. I really wonder how do they generate funds to even launch a fancy website…would be surprised (and certainly depressed too) if there exist any real students attending this higher school of learning.

  • Quasar9

    Hi Bee,
    Just shows that Maths can either free one, or
    tie one up in knots (strings, closed strings & loops).

    Never got caught up in Beatle Mania
    Always been more a Rolling Stones – Man!

    “I know, it’s only rock’n'roll,
    but I like it, like it. Yes I do …”

    If the Universe started with a Big Bang
    how come it took 13.7 billion years for ‘rock’ to reach us

    Never mind i-pod and mobile phones
    Can’t wait for hover boards myself!

  • spyder

    Damn, just realized Sgt. Peppers is forty years old this year, whoa. Anyway, at that time, during the peak of Beatles meet Maharishi and hari krishna, i was engaging my consternations in an upper division history of religions seminar. The professor, who later became my doctoral and personal mentor, was constantly being bombarded, by the various cults and sects blossoming on campus during that period, about the efficacy and intentionality of this or that belief. His response to a MMYogi-type one afternoon has stayed with me since. “Don’t you understand how perfect transcendental meditation is?” pleaded the student. The prof, looked around the room and uttered in his most eloquent enunciation: “TM, BM, aaaahh!”

  • Joseph Smidt

    Is this university for real? Their math faculty have PhDs from reputable schools so I guess they are.

    The course descriptions look interesting. I’m assuming their “Boundless Universe of All Sets” is not the same thing as “the set of all sets” since such an idea leads to contradiction.

  • Chris

    Joseph Smidt:

    Ah, but you fail to see do you not? You are limiting yourself to Western Notions of Correctness. Contradictions in a mathematical theory are not a weakness, but a strength. Is it not obvious that the Set of All Sets should, nay, MUST, contain contradictions when reality itself is in fact a contradiction?

    Where do I send my resume? I need a job.

  • Ike

    I’m not sure that a “PhD from a reputable school” is much of a qualification these days. If that’s the only qualifier, you’re sure to get a lot of nonsense – after all, many PhD’s are more the result of obstinance rather than of insight. This is particularly true in programs that are organized around the production of patentable intellectual property – the unpleasant truth is that PhD’s in such programs are often nothing more than glorified lab technicians.

    Original publications are still the gold standard for judging scientific merit… but the Maharashi stuff is pretty funny… right up there with that movie, “What the Bleep Do we Know”… but the fact that a lot of people are fooled into taking that kind of nonsense seriously is definitely NOT funny, but very worrisome – especially if those people end up in policy-making positions.

  • Chris

    Wait, does yogic flying mean you get to bounce around on mattress’s in a sort of obstacle course? That sounds like fun!

  • andy.s

    Which course is it where they prove that sqrt(.01 n) people meditating can influence the behavior of n people?

    I need to know before the next election.

  • Tony Smith

    According to its web site, Maharishi University of Management (MUM) “… is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The University is also a member of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. …”
    “… More than $32 million in Federal and other grants [have been] awarded to date, to the University and to Maharishi University of Management Research Institute in collaboration with leading academic medical centers around the country …”.

    IIRC, it used to be named “Maharishi International University”. It might be interesting to know why and when it changed its name.

    B notes in a comment that MUM “… explore[s] phenomenological aspects of a recently- proposed Flipped SU(5) x U(1) supersymmetric GUT …”,
    so at least they have a concrete model that might be falsifiable by comparison with experiment,
    since they have stuck with that specific model for a long time (see Phys. Lett. B 231 (1989) 65-74 by Hagelin et al),
    it seems to me that
    they deserve to be evaluated on the merits of that specific model.

    Another way to evaluate an institution is by the quality of publications it produces.
    An interesting book, entitled “Quantum Field Theory for Mathematicians”, by Robin Ticciati of MUM was published in 1999 by Cambridge Un. Press.
    It preface states in part:
    “… I [Robin Ticciati] had audited Sidney Coleman’s outstanding Harvard lectures and had taken very good notes. … I had Robert Brandenburger’s official solutions to all the homework sets. … this book is unique. The common approach in other texts is generally either that of a model builder who aims at efficient presentation of what works, or that of an applied mathematician who is trying to find a foundation for the techniques of the praciticing field theorist. … My work is half way between these two. …”.
    Here again,
    I think that MUM deserves to be evaluated on the quality of its product.

    Tony Smith

  • Alex R

    For some reason, I’m reminded of when I was looking up some articles in Chinese science journals from the middle of the Cultural Revolution, and it seemed that nearly every article had to have some Maoist political comment to it. I’d imagine that in some cases, these articles had good science to which the authors had to add some pro-forma Maoism to get them into print. Some of the Vedic Science stuff may be of the same sort…

    Oh, and by the way: there are (presumably) consistent set theories with a set of all sets — the most well known is NFU.

  • Chris

    Alex R:

    See? Once again, Western Science is (slowly) catching up to gobbledygook that I spouted earlier! Clearly, my methods are superior!

    *cough* sorry bout that. :)

  • Arun M Thalapillil

    I am ashamed that people still fall for things of this kind. It is one thing to respect your culture for what it is (or was) but to try and justify all this nonsense with science is a new trend. This as B. points out is really scary. Talking of yogic flying and twisting science here is another one that gives me nightmares:

  • michael pierce

    I’d imagine that in some cases, these articles had good science to which the authors had to add some pro-forma Maoism to get them into print. Some of the Vedic Science stuff may be of the same sort…

    I doubt many people are forced to attend MUM. And, it seems to me, there are plenty of journals to publish in that wouldn’t umm….need a ‘nod to the Maharishi in the article as a prerequisite for publication. Though maybe we’ve just been lucky?

    sigh… They’ve got several physics courses listed which are not quite as “entertaining” as the mathematics or the dissertation abstracts. There are a few small gems such as

    “The Evolution of Physics: From Einstein to Maharishi”


    “Foundations of Physics and Cosmology: Discovery of the Unified Field and Its Practical Applications for Perfection in Life ”

    but it looks like many of the descriptions were largely written during one of Hagelin’s lucid moments.

  • kapakapa

    Yogic Flying brings me a nightmarish flashback of the pseudo-scientific religious group Aum in Japan. Yep, that notorious one with several PhDs, doctors and a lawyer, making tons of money through their computer shops and kidnappings of wealthy gullible folks. Constrictive head gears that supposedly produced alpha waves and subliminal messages broadcast over all commercial TV stations when they appeared… and on and on, until the salin incident in Tokyo metro more or less wiped them out.

    It was the Yogic Flying (hovering) that legitimatised Asahara’s charisma, and he was a master of chicanery. Many bright or serious but mixed up youngsters fell for this born trickster.

    MUM sounds another caveat emptor case. Nonetheless ‘Calculus 4: Locating Silence within Dynamism’ sounds awfully catchy. The class could be offered as ‘Zen Koan ∞’. Ooops, I guess zen is one of their competitors.

  • Robin Varghese

    Given what Hindu/Indian mathematics used to be (producing a calculus textbook before Newton and Leibniz), it’s sad to see it descend into this.

  • Robin Varghese

    …its *traditions* descend into this.

  • Kristjan Kannike

    Robin Ticciati’s QFT text is outstanding. But its author went on to write vedic books on food with his wife, as evidenced from. At least he gave a contribution to physics education in the form of a good textbook, before receding from science.

  • Kristjan Kannike

    … evidenced from

  • Sean

    Bee, I can think that it’s both scary and funny at the same time. Funny what they believe, scary that they believe it. It’s our job to make it as clear as possible what the dividing line is between sense and nonsense, so that non-experts can tell the difference.

    Robin, I wouldn’t characterize this as “Hindu/Indian mathematics,” any more than I would characterize Intelligent Design as “American science.” Every culture has crackpots.

  • cynic

    Oh dear: part of me wonders why you bother lambasting this stuff, then the rest of me thinks for a moment and just wants to give up.

  • Count Iblis

    Why don’t they just smoke some marijuana? That seems a much easier way to “transcend” to me! :)

  • Tony Smith

    Sean said to Bee: “… It’s our job to make it as clear as possible what the dividing line is between sense and nonsense …”.

    Bee quoted the MUM dissertation of Stephen Kelley in part:
    “…. We analyze the low-energy effective theory obtained using the renormalization group equations, …”,
    Bee’s quote did not include the entire sentence, which was
    “… We analyze the low-energy effective theory obtained using the renormalization group equations, demonstrating that electroweak symmetry breaking is obtained if m sub{t} ~60 to 90 GeV. …”.

    Assuming that m sub{t} is the Tquark mass,
    it seems to me that Kelley is saying that, for the electroweak symmetry breaking that we see in experiments,
    the Maharishi Physics Model puts the Tquark mass between 60 and 90 GeV,
    which is in conflict with experimental results at Fermilab.

    If you really want to “make it as clear as possible what the dividing line is between sense and nonsense”,
    why don’t you just compare the Maharishi Physics Model (as stated in Kelley’s dissertation abstract) with Fermilab’s experimental results ?

    It seems to me that showing a clear conflict with experimental results would be far more devastating than ridiculing Vedic Views.

    Tony Smith

  • Mark

    Nevertheless, they are completely ridiculous.

  • Plato

    I wonder if we can be “just as guilty” of perpetuating those things that one could despise? It’s a penguin?

  • Arun

    Bah, it is the American Beatles/hippie generation that went and imported Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhagawan Rajneesh and that sort. If some people are so dumb as to be willing to give these folks lots of money, then it is highly likely (so says evolution) that others will arise that will exploit this niche. This does not reflect on Indian mathematics, any more than creationism and intelligent design reflects on American biology.

    Furthermore, Americans give money to the foreign missionary sort who are a lot more destructive than the Maharishi. At least the Maharishi doesn’t go about telling illiterate people that if they don’t believe in his God they will burn in hell or giving them antibiotics and claiming that their prayers to Jesus cured them (and not the antibiotics). At least the conman and the conned are on a level playing field here.

  • Peter Woit

    Several years ago I took a look at the MUM course materials in physics and “Vedic Science”. They seemed to be spending quite a lot of time teaching students about string field theory and how it integrated well with the rest of the Maharishi’s teachings. Looks now like they have given up on string theory and moved on…

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  • Cash

    I’m continually surprised that science has become the new standard for validation. There’s a reason faith, science and spirituality co-existed ( with bits of fighting here and there ) together for so long. One or the other might get the other hand for a time but the other ones always bounced back.

    Defining themselves in the context of the others doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Spirituality won’t survive a scientific litmus test and science can’t explain the meaning of life. Criticizing either of those by the others is like criticizing a steak for not being an apple.

  • John M. Knapp, LMSW

    For a critical look at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation Movement, you might like to visit TM-Free Blog.


  • Ellipsis

    On the other side of the coin, Hagelin’s a smart guy, who did a lot of quite decent physics in his day and (not that this would be any sort of justification, but..) probably makes more money than any of the people writing/reading here now. MUM is obviously completely nutty, but if you don’t take it too seriously and just relax about it (isn’t that what the point of it is, how to relax?), I think it’s certainly harmless. Science certainly has not answered the question of how do we get people to relax and enjoy life … so if you take that as a goal, then I wouldn’t say MUM is the worst thing in the world.

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  • tom golstch

    These folks prove once again that since they feel obligated to reference all this yogic gibberish to western science, as do fundamentalist Christians seeking to have western medicine verify ‘miracles’, what the accepted structure of reality actually is.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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