Volume 10, Issue 1, 2019
Between Religion and Science
Shifting Views on Knowledge in Acem and the Transcendental Meditation Movement
This article offers a comparative analysis of the relationship between science and religion in Acem and the Transcendental Meditation organisation. Both these meditation movements have their historical origin in the teachings of the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Hindu Advaita Vedānta tradition. Their further development in the West has been characterised by varying degrees of cultural adaptation. The TM movement has retained a worldview which is inherently religious, but has developed its teachings through its encounters with modern science, and developed a panoply of alternative “scientific” disciplines. The TM movement has also systematically employed scientific terms and tropes to communicate effectively with a Western audience. Acem has discarded religious explanations altogether, and sees modern science as the sole source of reliable knowledge. The shifts in what is conceived to be plausible forms of knowledge have been paired with changes in terminology and self-descriptions. It is argued that the increased emphasis on and normative elevation of science can be seen as strategies to gain legitimacy and appeal in a cultural environment that tends to favour science over religion. The article thus sheds light upon some of the challenges that may arise when a body of knowledge moves between different cultural contexts, and strategies used to encounter these.