from R&D Innovator Volume 2, Number 12
Fagan is a molecular biologist at Maharishi International
University in Fairfield, Iowa.
He works on gene regulation and cancer and has a Research
Career Development Award from the National Cancer Institute.
did I move from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to a small
university in a tiny Iowa town?
The answer is the creativity
stimulated by the regular practice of meditation. I believe the deep inner experience of meditation allows us
to connect directly with the field of abstract intelligence where
the laws of nature reside.
science, the big ideas often blossom instantaneously in our minds,
full-blown and unbidden. Even
though we spend the bulk of our research time grinding out results
through the trial-and-error of objective investigation, the
breakthroughs originate as sudden intellectual dawnings, as great
I was still working at NIH, I was intimately involved with
Transcendental Meditation (TM) and regularly visited Maharishi
International University (MIU).
Twice a day, while there, I walked to a soaring, golden-
domed building and took part in MIU's unique educational feature:
group meditations of all students, faculty and staff.
It seemed that after every visit, I returned to my NIH lab
with a stack of good research ideas.
opportunity to work in an environment where everybody's mind was
being fine-tuned twice a day was one reason why I moved to MIU in
1985. Since then, my
work and career have flourished, and the experience forced me to
search for a deeper understanding of scientific creativity.
I think regular meditation helps develop that most prized
scientific quality—a penetrating intuition into nature's
an otherwise standard curriculum, MIU adds the daily practice of
TM as brought to light by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The goal is to provide all students the means to
systematically increase their intelligence, creativity, and
other schools focus on knowledge—on facts, theories, and
skills—MIU also develops the knower—the
consciousness of the student.
MIU is accredited through the Ph.D. level.
Our faculty compete effectively for academic publication
and grant support, and our graduates are accepted at the best
post-graduate programs. Of
those interested in the sciences, many end up working with
computer, biotechnology, or other technical industries.
only does this yield excellent science, but it has also resulted
in a number of advances with important practical applications.
For instance, to meet the needs of his own research program
on neuronal development, one MIU faculty member devised a
revolutionary approach to real-time three-dimensional imaging of
living cells. This
led to the researcher forming a company, Vital Images, that has
successfully applied this new method to such diverse fields as
medical diagnostics, oil exploration, and the testing of airplane
a collaboration between a physicist and an electrical engineer at
MIU led to the development of a new type of compact disk player
that virtually eliminates noise, which also led to the founding of
a new company, Enlightened Audio Design, to market these products.
are not the kinds of contributions one usually expects from the
faculty of a small university (enrollment is 800).
Even with limited resources, researchers at MIU compete
successfully in fast-moving areas where innovation is essential.
Do Insights Come From?
longer I have worked at MIU, the more interested I have become in
two questions: Where
do sudden insights come from?
And how can we have more of them?
think scientists have, within their intelligence, immediate access
to the laws of nature. This
idea has been forwarded through the ages, from Plato to Roger
Penrose, the Oxford mathematical physicist who wrote Emperor's New Mind (Oxford University Press, New York, 1989).
In this conception, the intelligence in the human mind and
the intelligence in nature are identical—the Aha!
moment is a sudden penetration into “pure intelligence” and
its store of eternal truths.
intuitive breakthroughs, which often seem clear and utterly
convincing, we must return to ordinary scientific methods for the
brick-by-brick validation of what we first saw all at once and
whole. I have come to
regard these two phases as revolutionary
science and systematic
science—the orderly and progressive accumulation of
observations that confirm and fill in the details of the
can we nourish the ability to make breakthroughs?
How can we increase intuition?
Although many researchers have long recognized that
intuition distinguishes great scientists from the throng of
competent investigators, we lacked the ability to systematically
develop this fundamental scientific tool.
But that’s changing.
Like many scientists, I originally began practicing TM
because it’s the one meditation technology that has been
thoroughly researched. (For
a good overview, see Jevning, et al., Neuroscience
and Biobehavioral Reviews, 16:
415, 1991; Alexander, et al., J.
Social Behavior and Personality 6:
189, 1991). Maharishi
himself was trained as a physicist before moving into the field of
consciousness, and he has challenged scientists to investigate the
benefits of the technique he teaches.
is performed for twenty minutes, twice a day, to settle the mind
to a deep silence and inner wakefulness. You can find out more about TM through easily accessible
books and tapes. It’s
easy to learn the process through an instructor (found in
virtually every area of the US and Europe).
is possible to explain the effectiveness of TM solely through
objective investigation. More
than 500 research studies, showing a wide range of benefits, have
been carried out over the last 20 years at more than 200
universities and research institutions.
The research shows that TM results in distinct and highly
reproducible physiological changes, improves health, and allows
one to deal more effectively with stress (all reviewed in Jevning,
have also shown that this meditation technique increases
intelligence and creativity (Cranson, et al., Personality and Individual Differences, 12:
1105, 1991; Travis, et al., Journal
of Creative Behavior, 13: 169, 1979).
The latter research showed that TM significantly improved
figural and verbal creativity by Cornell undergraduates.
The authors hypothesize that the increase in blood flow to
the brain and brain wave coherences that take place during TM may
contribute to these improvements in intelligence and creativity.
the extent the research is accurate, this explanation is logical.
But I find a deeper explanation more satisfying:
Transcendental Meditation stems from the ancient Vedic
tradition in India which sees all of creation as based on a
single, underlying field of pure consciousness—something akin to
Plato's realm of pure intelligence.
the explanation, I'm convinced it works—and it's practical.
TM is so easy that even ten-year-olds can learn it.
It requires no change in religious beliefs or philosophical
outlook. You don't
need to sleep on a bed of nails or even wear a turban.
I know many scientists—at major industries and
universities—who swear by their daily practice of meditation
because of the benefits they experience in work and personal life.
is the practice of meditation revolutionary in scientific terms?
Because until now we've never had reason to think that we
could enhance baseline creativity.
We used management techniques and problem-solving methods
to help people make the most of their native creativity—but we
usually took that baseline level of creativity as a given.
convinced that scientists and engineers can systematically upgrade
their creativity and dramatically boost their productivity.
In fact, it's now clear to me that if I ran a lab anywhere
else, one of my first steps would be to make TM available to all