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Chapter 2

Creating peace in Baskinta

Science works because after hypotheses and reasoning, after intuitions and visions, after equations and calculations, we can check whether we have done well or not: the theory gives predictions about things we have not yet observed, and we can check whether these are correct, or not. This is the power of science, that which grounds its reliability and allows us to trust it with confidence: we can check whether a theory is right or wrong. This is what distinguishes science from other kinds of thinking, where deciding who is right and who is wrong is usually a much thornier question, sometimes even devoid of meaning.                                                                                                                                                                                  Carlo Rovelli, quantum physicist

Rise of coherence in world consciousness will spontaneously topple down all trends and actions of negativity in any area of life.                            Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, speaking to the world press, 16 March 2005

Some countries know the meaning of fear more than others. Their fears may be due to the results of disease, poverty and conflict either independently or in combination with each other. Whatever the cause, this fear is an everyday reality that eats at the soul of the nation and destroys the ambitions of a people who face a miserable existence with little optimism for the future.

The Republic of Lebanon knew only too well the terror of falling bombs. During a 15-year civil war, lasting from 1975 to 1990, it lost an estimated 200,000 citizens, much of its infrastructure and billions of dollars from its fragile economy. Characterized by sporadic fighting and periods of uneasy calm, the Lebanese conflict was complex and bitter. Christians, Muslims, Druse, Israelis, Palestinians and Syrians were all involved as Muslims (Shi’a and Sunni) fought Muslims and Christians (Greek Orthodox and Maronite) fought Christians. Fortunately, amid all the human misery, something remarkable happened that brought peace, if not to the whole country, at least to one small community.

The story of Baskinta

Baskinta, a Lebanese village built on land once inhabited by the Phoenicians, is known for its temperate climate, its great natural beauty and its many monasteries and churches. It is also the birthplace of the Lebanese author and poet Mikha’il Na’ima, author of the mystical text The Book of Mirdad. This historic and culturally rich village lies at the foot of Mount Sannine which, being 2628 meters at its highest point, allows marvelous views of the surrounding countryside, even as far as the island of Cyprus. But while Baskinta may appear to be an attractive location, the village and its neighbors were of crucial importance during the Lebanese civil war due to the strategic nature of the area.

Intriguingly for its inhabitants, this small community was to become the subject of a pioneering experiment. The aim was to discover if Transcendental Meditation practice by 1% of the Baskinta population could help bring peace to a place that was no stranger to conflict. The results were remarkable.

The experiment

Five research studies, conducted previously in the US, had indicated that when approximately 1% of a population practices the Transcendental Meditation technique, negative trends such as crime and violence decrease in the local population. Inspired by these findings, a Lebanese scientist and teacher of the Transcendental Meditation® program, Dr Tony Nader, decided to test this in his native country.3

Dr Nader and his co-researchers predicted that when the number of people practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique in Baskinta reached the 1% threshold, a resulting decrease in the number of incoming shells, casualties and property damage would follow. They examined war-related data for Baskinta and four neighboring villages, two under Christian control and two under Muslim control, from October 1978 onwards. The measurements were taken quarterly over a six-year period, giving a total of 24 measurements. The main sources of their data were the Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar, supplemented by another paper, Al Amal, and the radio station Voice of Lebanon. The experimental period of the study began in July 1982 as, by the end of June 1982, 1% of the 10,000-strong Baskinta population had already learned the Transcendental Meditation technique. Five individuals had also learned the more advanced TM-Sidhi program which they practiced either on their own or as a group. The experimental period ended in March 1984.

 Transformation in time of war

Before 1% of the Baskinta population learned the Transcendental Meditation technique, more shells fell on Baskinta than on the other villages. Then, as the 100 participants in the experiment began their practice during the spring of 1982, approximately 353 shells were fired at the village but, unlike in previous attacks, did not hit their targets. After 1% of the population learned Transcendental Meditation, media reports stated that shelling ceased completely.

To summarize, the results showed an effect consisting of reduced casualties and property damage over the three months when the 1% were learning the Transcendental Meditation technique in small groups. The effect, however, was not as strong as when the 1% threshold was reached. From this time on during the experiment, no more shelling shook Baskinta’s long-suffering population.

It was a vastly different situation in the neighboring Christian villages of Bikfaya and Rayfoun/Klaiat and in the neighboring Muslim villages of Dhour-Shweir and Bologna, which served as controls. Here the overall level of fighting was higher after spring 1982 with a 40% increase in shelling.

Although the Israeli army did not occupy the area around Baskinta, it did draw close in the late spring of 1982. The anxiety this created was amplified by a warning from nearby Muslim villages: if fired upon by the Israelis, they would retaliate against the three Christian villages, including Baskinta. Ignoring these warnings, the Israelis fired shells at positions in the villages of Dhour-Shweir and Bologna and the Muslim fighters did retaliate against both Bikfaya and Rayfoun/Klaiat, but they did not retaliate against Baskinta.

Implications of the Baskinta study

Baskinta was a pilot experiment and, as with any experiment of this nature, statistical correlation does not necessarily prove causation. Nonetheless, the outcome of the experiment was both provocative and exciting. The statistical probability that the results occurred by chance was less than 1 in 100,000, suggesting that coincidence was unlikely to have been a probable or even a reasonable explanation. The results of the study, however, did not fit in with the current conventional scientific understanding. As we will show in the next chapter there are many examples where scientists have reported findings that seem implausible in the face of prevailing scientific understanding yet later enter