The Men Who Stare in Peace: An Interview with Dr. David Leffler

In the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats, military interest in psychic research is portrayed as an utter failure. The movie is not meant to be science journalism but pure entertainment. However, buried beneath the satirical and banal surface of this movie lie many interesting scientific theories. A proposed theory of a collective consciousness is one of them.

The origins of our understanding of collective consciousness can be traced to the Vedic texts of ancient India. This multidimensional science of the mind had its revival with such luminaries as Gustav Fechner, William James, Emile Durkheim, and C.G. Jung. Recent advances in quantum physics, especially Unified Field Theory, are now providing some fascinating parallels with these schools of thought.

ecuador-IDT-class1Apparently, at least one military of an unknown Latin-American country is
deploying Invincible Defense Technology.
Photo of allegedly nearly fully-operational “Military Prevention Wing.”

The late Vedic scholar Maharishi Mahesh Yogi majored in physics at the University of Allahabad and later revived the concept of collective consciousness from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He proposed that through the practice of his Transcendental Meditation (TM) program and its advanced techniques the unified field could be directly contacted and experienced. Through this process he predicted that both stress in the individual and stress in the collective consciousness of society could be reduced for the betterment of mankind. Scientific research later bore out his prediction, and scientists named the social dimension of this phenomenon “The Maharishi Effect” in his honor.

Harvard-trained physicist Dr. John Hagelin, whose research in quantum field theory includes some of the most cited references in the physical sciences, was one of those pioneering scientists who tested Maharishi’s theory and wondered how such an action-at-distance effect might work. In his article “The Power of the Collective” published by Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness, Hagelin says:

But how we do have such an influence on one another at a distance? There are no clear answers yet, but I believe that the clue lies in the notion that beneath the physical levels of human existence – our bodies and the quantum realm of molecules, atoms, quarks, and leptons – is a unified field of pure, abstract, universal consciousness. It’s at this level of reality, this level of nonlocal mind, where you discover that the qualities of space are, at least in theory, capable of accommodating extraordinary experiences…. If we assume that at our core level of being we are all intimately connected in a unified field where we are all one, it becomes very easy to understand how we influence one another. And when we contact this unified field of being, we enliven that unity, that harmony, and that coherence in the collective consciousness of society.

The Maharishi Effect is this positive transformation of social trends created by the enlivenment of the unified field through the TM and TM-Sidhi program. If more than one percent of a population is meditating regularly or if large groups practice the advanced TM-Sidhi program twice a day, extensive peer-reviewed research indicates that stress decreases in the entire population. This effect is now being harnessed for crime reduction, peace-keeping and conflict prevention. Even in war zones, meditation is becoming accepted as an effective stress management tool for citizens, soldiers, and society at large. An online video (1:13:00) specifically explaining the defense applications of the Unified Field by Dr. John Hagelin is available at the International Center for Invincible Defense website. A transcription and full-sized images are available here.

Skeptics point out that if the Maharishi Effect really works, then why didn’t it prevent the social stress responsible for the 1950-1951 annexation of Tibet? At the time more than 5,000 monks were said to be meditating in various monasteries throughout the country. Proponents of the TM program point out that scientific research shows that meditation techniques differ in procedure, EEG patterns, neural imaging patterns and benefits. They also attest that the TM program and its advanced practices are the only meditation methods verified by peer-reviewed research to reduce social problems like crime, terrorism and war.

Do these outcomes sound unbelievable or too good to be true? Many find these ideas rather exotic, and others wave them off as another New Age scam. Documentary films like What the Bleep Do We Know and The Secret and books like The Holographic Universe may be great entertainment to some, but do they have any basis in good science?

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. David R. Leffler, a US Air Force Veteran with a Ph.D. in Consciousness-Based Military Defense, about this new approach to peace:

Q. How did your background in the US Air Force get you involved with research on the field effects of collective consciousness and Transcendental Meditation?

A. Actually, I learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program when I was a college student, before I joined the US Air Force. My goal was to gain a competitive edge. The scientific research conducted on the TM technique caught my attention. For instance, one controlled study showed that just three months of practicing the TM program resulted in increased field independence (i.e., increased ability to focus, increased stability of spatial orientation, broader comprehension, and increased resistance to distraction). Later, during my US Air Force career, I served mostly in a public relations role and did not see combat, but I was constantly reminded of the dangers of military operations.

During my second enlistment, as part of my doctoral studies (although not related to my military duties), I began to deeply investigate the field effects of consciousness created by an advanced TM practice called the TM-Sidhi program. During this time Major General Albert Stubblebine, US Army (Retired) and a former commander of the US Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM), became a consultant to my doctoral committee. In The Men Who Stare at Goats, the character General Hopgood is based on Stubblebine. (See: “Taking The Men Who Stare at Goats Seriously.”)

Q. What influence do movies like The Men Who Stare at Goats have on the public perception of your area of expertise?

A. Such movies are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, The Men Who Stare at Goats brought worldwide attention to the profound possibilities of expanding human performance and how the military initially began to investigate these possibilities. However, both the book and the satirical movie focus on this early military program and largely ignore later, more holistic research on unfolding human potential — including the 600+ scientific studies conducted on the Transcendental Meditation program and published in leading peer-reviewed academic and scientific journals. These studies confirm that TM practice improves memory and learning ability, creativity, autonomic stability, and the ability to assimilate and structure experience. Other desirable effects measured include enhanced neurological efficiency, faster reaction time, improved self-confidence, increased self-reliance, and greater inner control. Holistic growth has also been documented by psychophysiological means such as EEG measures showing increased global EEG coherence, as well as psychological tests of intelligence, moral reasoning, and personality. Military personnel would enjoy these wide-ranging benefits if they regularly practiced the TM technique and its advanced practices.

Q. What are the most advanced research projects using Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Effect to reduce stress as well as crime, war and terrorism today?

A. When used in a military context, Transcendental Meditation and its advanced practices are known as Invincible Defense Technology (IDT). For the military to take full advantage of this human resource-based technology, a Prevention Wing of the Military would be needed. The goal of these specific military IDT units would be to create the Maharishi Effect, which would greatly reduce the likelihood of combat. But under any and all situations, as the aforementioned research suggests, a military that had adopted the TM program as well as its advanced practices would have an advantage on the battlefield. Lieutenant General José Martí Villamil (now retired), a former vice-minister of defense for Ecuador, successfully created such a group and helped to end the war with Peru. An article published by Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace entitled “Invincible Defense – A New “Secret Weapon!” describes deployment of, and the underlying theory behind, the Prevention Wing of the Military utilized by the Mozambique military. IDT projects in other countries are also under way, although most utilize civilian-based groups. More than 50 replications and 23 studies published in leading peer-reviewed journals have confirmed the effectiveness of this approach to peace.

Q. How could the Transcendental Meditation technique be used in other sectors of society like education, health care or government?

A. The TM technique and its extensive benefits have applications in most sectors of society. My daughter attends one of many consciousness-based schools in which the entire school practices the TM technique. Research has shown that TM practice promotes balanced brain development, increases memory and learning ability, improves grades, reduces stress, and helps alleviate learning disorders – all immensely valuable results in education. Studies have also shown that health care costs are lower for people who practice the TM technique and that health improves across a wide range of measures. Research further confirms that the positive influence of IDT groups on social trends enhances governmental effectiveness. The Netherlands (Holland), Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia now have fully operational IDT programs, populated mostly by students in the educational systems. The Brazilian government has announced that that it will start training 1.5 million students for its IDT defense system.

Q. The positive influence of group TM practice on the general population can be measured by serotonin and cortisol levels. How do you isolate these parameters from the influence of other factors in the environment? How do you measure these effects scientifically and keep out “noise” or “static” in the collective consciousness?

A. As far as I know, only the Transcendental Meditation technique has been studied in this way. According to neurochemist Dr. Kenneth Walton, one of our research scientists at the Center for Advanced Military Science, the detailed mechanisms mediating interactions between the field of consciousness and human physiology are not yet known. However, he and his colleagues first found evidence that the Transcendental Meditation technique increases measures of the neurotransmitter serotonin and decreases the stress-related hormone cortisol in individuals who practice the technique. Later, these researchers found that even people who were not practicing meditation showed similar biochemical changes that were correlated with fluctuations in the size of large groups practicing the advanced TM (TM-Sidhi) program together twice a day. The non-practitioners were located some miles away from the TM (TM-Sidhi) groups and had no knowledge of group size or the time of the group practice. The statistical correlation between these two sets of measurements (biochemical fluctuations and group size) implies a causal link between the two. The effects of other known variables, such as temperature, that influence both group size and these biochemicals were controlled for statistically. In a study published in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17:339-373, 2005, controlling for the “noise” in collective consciousness was purely statistical. For a significant relationship between group size and these biochemicals to show up at all, the effect must be greater than existing “noise” in collective consciousness.

Q. Do you know Ingo Swann? How does your research relate to remote viewing?

A. I do not know Ingo Swann. I have read that he describes himself as a “consciousness researcher” who has occasionally experienced “altered states of consciousness.” However, our worldviews differ on the nature of “altered states of consciousness” – and quite possibly on the nature of consciousness itself. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the TM technique, described four distinct higher states of consciousness beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping that arise naturally and spontaneously from regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The first of these is the experience of pure inner wakefulness, pure consciousness in its most fundamental state, no longer bound or obscured by thought content. The existence of this fourth state of consciousness, with its quite distinctive psychophysiological characteristics, is a scientifically confirmed reality today, regularly experienced by the six million people worldwide who practice the TM technique. It is not an unusual or “altered” state; rather, it is universally available to anyone as the core reality of human life. Likewise, the fifth state of consciousness described by Maharishi, where the pure inner awareness and profound physiological rest that characterize the fourth state have been fully integrated into waking state experience, is now being confirmed by scientific research. My point is that some so-called “altered states of consciousness” may well be, in reality, “normal states of consciousness.”

Today, largely due to our modern lifestyle, many individuals are highly stressed. High stress levels in the physiology prevent people from accessing higher states of consciousness and so-called “supernatural abilities.” In reality, such special abilities are not “super” but “natural,” and they come more easily to a “normal,” less-stressed nervous system. The TM-Sidhi program allows practitioners to cultivate such abilities.

The words “remote viewing” are not part of the IDT lexicon, and we do not conduct the type of “goal seeking” remove viewing that was described in books like The Men Who Stare At Goats,Reading the Enemy’s MindThe Warrior’s Edge and The Psychic Warrior. Maharishi felt it was a better use of time to purify and strengthen our human nervous systems first and become more disease-free, enlightened human beings who are living more of our full potential and spontaneously helping prevent such social problems as crime, terrorism and war.

Q. Many believe a fifth generation of warfare is emerging where super empowered individuals reject technology to diminish the adversaries’ technology-based power. How does your work fit into this emerging model of warfare?

A. IDT improves the integrated functioning of the human nervous system, thereby empowering the individual warrior. Similarly, IDT group technologies of consciousness have their basis in the collective coherent functioning of many human brains and nervous systems in close proximity, thereby accessing and enlivening the Unified Field. However, the more familiar technologies used to operate vehicles, computers, satellites, etc. would still be part of the military. And the military could continue to maintain its conventional forces, weapons and arsenals. The goal of IDT, especially as deployed in Prevention Wings of the military, is to create an invincible nation by generating an indomitable effect of coherence and harmony in collective consciousness. Invincibility for any country has always been elusive in the past because history shows that enemies will always find a weakness and exploit it. For this reason, a military can only be truly invincible if it has no enemies. By using its warriors’ human minds to harness the ultimate level of the Unified Field, any military can now reduce and neutralize the collective stress that causes enemies to be born. If no enemy can arise, then the military achieves victory before war.

Dr. David Leffler, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is the Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Military Science. He served as an Associate of the Proteus Management Group at the Center for Strategic Leadership of the U.S. Army War College. Dr. Leffler has published articles in over 100 media outlets worldwide about how Invincible Defense Technology could prevent terrorism and war.

Selected Readings about Invincible Defense Technology:

Dr. David R. Leffler (*Fall 2009). A New Role for the Military: Preventing Enemies from Arising-Reviving an Ancient Approach to PeaceJournal of Management & Social Science (JMSS), Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 153-162. This peer-reviewed journal is published by the Institute of Business & Technology BIZTEK in Pakistan. The abstract was published in Session 6, p. 44 of the proceeding of the “International Sociological Association Research Committee 01 Seoul National University & Korea Military Academy International Conference on Armed Forces & Conflict Resolution in a Globalized World.” July 14 – 17, 2008, Seoul, Korea. The paper was also presented at KIDA, the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. *JMSS actually published this paper online in the Spring of 2010 because it is publishing behind schedule. For a press release and media responses to this paper published in The Independent (U.K), USA TodayThe Times of IndiaThe Behavioral Medicine Report, South Asia NewsIndia Times,World News NetworkThe Medical NewsTechnoBahn ScienceMedical News Today, etc. please see:

Captain Raymond E. Seebald, US Coast Guard (Ret.) and Dr. David R. Leffler (28 March 2010) All these ex-military dudes are saying is give TM a chanceThe Day.

Major W.G. Klokow (South Africa Army) and Dr. David Leffler (12 January 2010). A Scientifically Verified and Practically Proven Means of Ensuring Safety and SecuritySoldier of Africa.

Major General Kulwant Singh (Indian Army, Retired) and Dr. David Leffler (4 December 2009). Viewpoint on Defence: New ‘Technology’ ExploredJournal of Turkish Weekly.

Dr. Kingsley Brooks and Dr. David Leffler (20 October 2009). Halt Nepal’s Political Unrest Now With Vedic DefenceGlobal Politician.

Dr. Guy David Hatchard and Dr. Kenneth Cavanaugh (26 November 2009). The Peace and Well Being of Nations: An Analysis of Improved Quality of Life and Enhanced Economic Performance Through the Maharishi Effect in New Zealand, Norway, USA, Cambodia, and Mozambique – A Longitudinal, Cross-Country, Panel-Regression Analysis of the IMD Index of National Competitive Advantage.Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace.

Professor Mukund D. Apte and Dr. David R. Leffler (12 September 2009). A Vedic Response to TerrorismIndia Strategic and Defence: World affairs section: Terrorism Subsection.

Dr. John Hagelin and Dr. David R. Leffler (4 September 2009). Iran needs a defense system beyond nuclear umbrellasAljazeera Magazine.

Dr. David R. Leffler (18 March 2009) Terrorism Trends, 54. Militant Islam Continues To Spread and Gain Power. International Exposure Includes a Growing Risk of Terrorist Attack – Expert Comments – Leffler [about Invincible Defense Technology]. In “55 Trends for Cyberwar.” Presented by Dr. Marvin J. Cetron, President, Forecasting International at Future of Information Warfare and Information Operations, Sponsored by JIOPO [Joint Information Operations Program Office], CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] and NSA [National Security Agency]. Dr. Leffler’s comments about Invincible Defense Technology appear on pages 136-138 and page 141.

Lt. Col. Jitendra Jung Karki (Nepal Army) (2008, August). Invincible Nepal: An Ancient Vedic Technology for Modern Security Challenges of NepalShreenath Journal, vol. 1. pages 16-20.

Col. Brian M. Rees (US Army Reserve) & Dr. David R. Leffler (Abstract). Stress reduction using the TM program: Solution to problems arising from combat stress. In the proceedings of the “International Conference on Armed Forces & Conflict Resolution in a Globalized World” July 14 – 17, 2008, Seoul, Korea, Session 3, p. 16.

Col. Brian M. Rees (2007). US Army War College masters program degree research paper The Application of Strategic Stress Management in Winning the Peace. Dr. Rees gave a presentation on this topic at the Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. (AMSUS) convention on 12 November 2007 and an Academic Workshop sponsored by: The Proteus Management Group, USA. Hosted by the Center for Strategic Leadership United States Army War College 22-24 August 2006. Link:

Dr. David R. Leffler, Dr. Kurt Kleinschnitz, & Dr. Kenneth G. Walton (1999, May 1). An alternative to military violence and fear-based deterrence: Twenty years of research on the Maharishi Effect.Security And Political Risk Analysis (SAPRA).

Dr. David R. Leffler (1997). A Vedic approach to military defense: Reducing collective stress through the field effects of consciousness. (Doctoral Dissertation, The Union Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1997).Dissertation Abstracts International, 58(08), 3298A.

Lt. Col. (German Air Force, Retired.) Gunter Chassé (1995). White Paper On the New Security and Defence Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany and on the Future of the Bundeswehr – English translation of the groundbreaking White Paper on why Germany should implement Invincible Defence Technology.

Dr. Michael Larrass, Major General Kulwant Singh (Indian Army, Retired) and Dr. David Leffler (18 May 2009). “Bomb of Silence” – Invincible Defence Technology for Sri Lanka, The Colombo Timesand Sri Lanka Guardian. This paper was originally accepted for publication by the Defence Review Committee for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence.

Dr. Brian McEnery (former Army Officer with The Defence Forces of Ireland) & Dr. David R. Leffler. (2003, May 26). A Scientific Formula to Create Invincible National DefenceThe Modern Tribune.

Major General Guru Israni (Indian Army) & Dr. David R. Leffler (2002, June 24). Operation: World PeaceDefence India.

Dr. Rakesh Datta (2001, February 5). Defence strategy based on VedasThe Tribune.


UPDATE: “David Wants to Fly” by David Sieveking. See the trailer for the documentaryand review in Die Zeit and Variety.

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