Acem is a Norwegian meditation organisation that speaks less of states of mind than the Transcendental Meditation movement which gave rise to Acem. It happened though a break with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the early 1970s.
At first, the Norwegian organisation was named Academic Meditation Society, AMS. It was founded and headed by a student, Are Holen. He had learnt deep meditation (later termed Transcendental Meditation, TM) from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1962. In January 1966, Holen founded the Academic Meditation Society, AMS, at the University of Oslo. AMS got centres in other Norwegian university towns too.
At first Are Holen represented Maharishi in Norway, but in 1970 he was fired by Maharishi. As a result, other TM teachers in AMS decided to support to Are Holen, joined him, and broke with Maharishi. Some AMS teachers did not know which side to support - the Holen side or the Maharishi side. One of them, a keen, honest student I learnt TM from (or through, depending on how you look at it), remained on the Maharishi side. He later left Norway for the United States. There was another, TM-teaching branch in Norway too at the time.
TM stands for for Transcendental Meditation. It is a very simple meditation method, and was first named deep meditation by Maharishi.
Acem was first Academic Meditation Society, AMS. It started as a branch of SRM (Spiritual Regeneration Movement), established in Norway in 1961). Later, SRM was named MIKI (Maharishi Institutt for Kreativ Intelligens), which later became MGANL Norge (MGANL stands for Maharishis Globale Administrasjon Gjennom Naturens Lov, which means Maharishi's Global Administration through the Law of Nature). The organisation responsible for teaching TM in Norway today, is Maharishistiftelsen, the Maharishi foundation.
AMS, which later changed its name to Acem, taught Transcendental Meditation. And Acem continued teaching TM. Disagreements led to a schism that was finalised in 1972. After a settlement outside court with the Maharishi side, AMS stopped using words like "mantra", and instead used "meditation sound" and "method sound". I think this practice was established in 1974 as part of an agreement out of court.
Acem's original ways were spiritual and guru-linked, as shown by the initiation ceremony in AMS. After the break with Maharishi, Acem does not speak a lot about spiritual sides to the world and us. It presents itself as non-religious and non-mystic. Further, Acem's TM method has been named Acem Meditation since 1981.
After some time in the West, Maharishi sought to transfer Vedanta teachings by other terms, to be better understood. He said so in an interview in a December issue of International Times in 1967:
The western man should not fall under stress and strain - he should know how to enjoy his own inner life and yet be more progressive. - Maharishi
In the 1967 interview, Maharishi speaks of "a very ancient system" of "successful withdrawal from outside to the inner region of energy and intelligence and bliss", adding he presents it to suit modern scientific understanding. He holds the essential teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is: "Go to the Self within."
When Maharishi was asked in the interview if his Guru Dev had taught him transcendental meditation, Maharishi said that he himself "gave it the present expression, but I learnt it from him in the traditional way. . . . He taught me in the traditional way of yoga and Vedanta and Indian religious language."
[Maharishi Interview in International Times (London), December 15th - December 28th, 1967]
Acem functions and presents itself much in line with Maharishi's design from the early phases of the TM movement. But it may not teach that it is the spiritual realm that possesses the keys to inner development. Abraham Maslow shows how spiritual sides to life are of a higher order than physical and psychological sides. Simply put: In Acem's self-presentation they seem to cut off the upper part of a pyramid. Study the figure and conclude as best you can.
Maharishi holds that Atman, the consciousness may be perceived by refinements that meditation brings beyond classifications in turiya, "the fourth" state (translated as transcendence), and further developments of it.
All states of mind go out from the Self, he teaches, and going towards the Self is sensed by increased subtlety and unity toward Oneness in the Self.
Transcendental Meditation goes a long way to assist people who want to get it better and not be victims of massive stress and its dangerous repercussions - such as stress-related diseases. Great calm, relaxation and deepening insights may tie in with one another.
Some have to struggle a long time to relax deeply and well
Maharishi also backed up a very good program of simple yoga postures to help TM practitioners along with their TM. It is a way of adjusting in tune with common hatha-yoga, where meditation is of the higher yoga, and postures help it "from below", so to speak, in part according to "A healthy body is a great help". Maharishi got expert help in designing the simple and effective program of yoga postures he published years before the unhappy disagreements that led many TM teachers in Norway "go Acem" in protest.
I look on Maharishi's auxilliaries to TM as hands stretched out to help further along the way, to the level where "All you need (at last) is solved (through deep meditation)" and you get shelter enough from the storms, from bad neighbours and further.
Some walk with light steps, others struggle harder to get along - it is not the road (here: TM) that is different in such cases but those upon it. Although there are things that seem less than perfect - at least to some - we are many who are very grateful to Maharishi's efforts for the good of many - One important point is: "Keep walking, and find out for yourself what the good practice furthers and changes in own your life."
One may say that 'transcendental' is taken out of Transcendental Meditation in Acem Meditation today -.
You sit in a comfortable chair with lower back support and repeat a method sound [at first called mantra] in your mind as effortlessly as possible, without using the speech organs. What else appears in the mind - thoughts, feelings, moods - you are to let them come and go without controlling them as long as you manage (can stand) the content. If not, a pause - little or long - could be of help. The main work is to sit or lie and repeat the sound mentally and take it up again as soon as you gets aware the attention has drifted or been taken away from it. You are thus to gently intone the sound as often as you find you drifted away from it, or forgot repeating it for other reasons.
The head is often full of impressions and thoughts that require energy and attention. The mind needs to work on these remains at some levels - some beyond conscious awareness - it often happens.
In deep meditation some issues or thoughs are worked on - "digested", if you like, for the sake of a saner integration with the individual, or person.
Acem meditation should result in better concentration, improved quality of sleep and better stress tolerance.
Effects of Acem Meditation are documented through a series of medical studies in Norway and Sweden and Australia.
Over 50,000 Norwegians have learnt Acem Meditation, and Acem has spread to other countries, where it grows faster than in Norway.
[A source: Store norske leksikon: "Acem"]
Ancient Method Ways
Meditation starts with closing one's eyes. - Are Holen, MD
Meditation: to repeat a meditation sound in one's mind. - Are Holen, MD
A meditation sound is to be used solely for meditation - somewhat less than once every two to four seconds. However, the frequency may vary. Usually the organ of speech [i.e. tongue] is not to be used. The repetition of the sound is not to be chained to the breath or heartbeat either. - Are Holen, MD
The meditation sound is to be repeated [in one's mind] in a free and easy manner, without any exertions [worth mentioning]. The sound is not to be repeated with "blurriness" either. [It is to be clear or distinct]. It is to be repeated with "feoma", which is from "free and easy, open mental attitude." [Norw: "flåmh," "fri, ledig, åpen mental holdning." - Are Holen, MD
Fit meditation starts processes that sooner or later lead to tension-dominated errors of performance. - Are Holen, MD
We meet with personality limitations when coming across deviances from freeness and ease, tendencies to concentration or blurriness. - Are Holen, MD
It is essential in meditation than thoughts that come, may pass. - Are Holen, MD
"To practice meditation may in periods also lead to being more tired, uneasiness, restlessness, resistance, contact with unpleasant feelings, etc. ⚶ So there is little reason to claim that Acem meditation bring less results over time.
[Norwegian: Å praktisere Acem-meditation . . . kan også periodevis føre med seg økt tretthet, uro, motstand, kontakt med ubehagelige følelser o. a." ["and much else"] ⚶ Det er altså lite grunnlag for å hevde at Acem-meditation gir mindre resultater etter en tid . . . - Are Holen, MD [Hum.]
Source of the quotations: Are Holen: "Hovedprinsipper i Acem-meditasjon". Oslo, NO: Acem-meditasjon Norge. https://dyade.no/acem_sites/dyade_no/boeker/stillhetens_psykologi/hovedprinsipper_i_acem_meditasjon
Some think Maharishi claimed too much about what results his methods brought, and broke with him or distanced themselves from the movement for such reasons or other reasons. Charlie Lutes did after Maharishi introduced Yogic Flying, or rather, butt-bouncing. And the Norwegian Dr Tor Hersoug writes:
Mahesh Yogi's behaviour underwent a change. His teaching was no longer primarily presented as a form of Indian wisdom, but rather as his own vision. He called it the SCI, the Science of Creative Intelligence. Over time, the purported effects of his techniques were greatly exaggerated, and he claimed scientific confirmation far beyond what was proven . . .
Dr Hersoug's "He demanded absolute obedience to his tenets and expected to be regarded as infallible by his leaders and adherents" (Ibid): Against that is a Maharishi quotation from around 1970, when he withdrew, saying: "I know that I have failed. My mission is over." But it was not over! Very soon he entered the ring again, and his mission rebranded. In short, he showed his statements of having failed and "mission over", were not so infallible or for all time. A little leniency is sometimes called for.
Carl Henrik Grøndahl (1942-) was the editor of Acem's magazine Dyade for over thirty years. He informs that the people who started Acem got a sound-based meditation method. It was Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation. By steps, Acem adapted it to a western worldview by taking the good parts of TM and surrounding it with Western teachings from the spheres of psychology and biology, and medical and statistical findings, and clipping the wings of the deep, spiritual outlooks that go with Maharishi's first presentations of TM.
What once used to be a small Norwegian student association, AMS (later renamed Acem) has become an international organisation with courses and books and meditation retreats in many languages. Acem people have made cultural contributions, as when the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet made his first journey to the West from his exile in India. In Norway, politicians refused to meet him. Acem arranged for him to meet with politicians, professors and bishops, and arranged a lecture with him at the University of Oslo, where the large lecture hall was filled to the brim.
That was one example. Another was when the Acem House in Oslo opened in 1978, and was announced to be a smoke-free place. Such an attitude against smoking has rightfully gained worldwide popularity since. However, just to put a smoke-free house in Oslo into perspective: the air in Oslo is polluted. But there is work in progress to improve it now. Hopefully, thet work.
Acem has its own radio to run, and rather low course fees. The people who spent a lifetime developing the organisation have reached retirement age or are about to retire.
[Main source: Carl Grøndahl. "Acem at 50 – some reflections". January 21, 2016]
The art of reserving one's judgements about the end results of TM and claims on behalf of TM, did not not win the day in Acem. It could well be that Maharishi talked from the perspective of end results - as inwardly experienced. And maybe those whose who disagreed with him, spoke from being on the way toward the goal. If so, the results Maharishi speaks of is like a fruit, and the beginner's perceptions stop at the stem or nearby, where no such fruit is developed yet.
Now, a road to walk on from dukkha sufferings, to sukha, joy, happiness, fulfilment and bliss, for example) should take pains [pardon the expression] to eliminate disagreements due to shortcomings. Buddhism has devised such a "road" from sufferings into joys, with gradations between them, as Dr Richard Gombrich is into in What Buddha Thought (2009:68).
Acem's foremost goals are to stimulate human growth and reflection, first and foremost through its TM-derived meditation, and through yoga and cultural activities etc.
An Acem stand is that deep insights require a certain amount of neutrality, which is to say getting or being quite unbiased and deliberate-minded and reflective against prejudice and emotional, little conscious drives. As a result of such an attitude one may see or realise more or better.
There is a place for human growth and reflection in life - hopefully. Yet, such goals in life are placed lower in Abraham Maslow's pyramid than Self-actualisation (the acme of the figure).
It could seem that Acem has left out Self-actualisation aspects of Maslow's Pyramid, such as Bliss and Transcendence and the higher developments that Buddhist and Hindu yoga speak of and speak for. I hope not, but if it is so, the good that Acem sets in motion should not become the enemy of the best, which may not be talked about, and which is inwardly felt or perceived. Being intellectual and rational when those mind faculties are not infused with spirituality, is being in some sort of darkness, say gurus.
One more issue is how Acem relates to the traditional guru attunement that TM Proper holds on to by its initiation ceremony. In tantric teachings - both Hindu and Buddhist - that link is vital. Dispensing with it might be a stupid thing to do, accordingly.
Adaptations to low and flat valleys of goings while ignoring higher fields and pastures could sooner or later be accompanied with a developmental stand-still and little beyond all right mind maintainance - what do I know? Maharishi discerns between seven levels, and traditional yoga often speaks of four - and the level immediately beyond the mental is named turiya.
A psychological foundation for presentations and explanations may not go deep enough or reach high enough see the pyramid above). A traditional or spiritual foundation takes into account various aspects of Being. Yoga-meditation reckons with much above and beyond the psychological levels. Further, dispensing with a very helpful link to a benevolent gurudev is something that traditional and spiritual folks may not want to be part of.
Mason, Paul. The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World. Rev. ed. Lyndhurst, Hampshire: Evolution, 2005.
The Institute of Vedic City Planning of Maharishi University of Management. Maharishi Vastu. Architecture and Planning: Vastu City Planning: Sustainable Cities in Harmony with Natural Law. 4th ed. Roerdalen, NL: Maharishi University of Management, Institute of Vedic City Planning, 2013.
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