Fifty years after George Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men was published in English, I’m offering “Meetings with Enlightened Men.” 

I had the inspiration for this column for July’s issue in which Independence Day takes place, while visiting Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

I had good fortune to spend six months with a remarkable man named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  What follows are parallel observations of Jefferson, whose “Declaration of Independence” helped enlighten many governments, and Maharishi, whose Transcendental Meditation helped enlighten many people.  

Jefferson was a political thinker influenced by Age of Enlightenment thinkers like Locke and Voltaire; Maharishi inaugurated what he called the dawning of a different Age of Enlightenment.  Both believed strongly in higher education. Jefferson founded and designed the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; Maharishi founded Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, and played a major role in designing the curriculum.

On Happiness

In his famous document that set our original 13 colonies free from England, Jefferson wrote that people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Maharishi, linking the Creator with human happiness, wrote,  “The purpose of Creation is the expansion of happiness.” He echoed this, saying, “Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness.”  

On Serenity

On serenity, our third president wrote, “It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give happiness.”  Elsewhere, he noted, “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”  The Beatles’ guru said, “The golden gate to peace in life is the experience of bliss, and it is easy for everyone to acquire this great glory and live it throughout life.”

On Consciousness

The political thinker wrote: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”  The spiritual thinker wrote: “Fulfillment is structured in achievement, achievement is structured in action, action is structured in thinking, thinking is structured in knowledge, and knowledge is structured in consciousness.”

On Enlightenment

Our first Secretary of State wrote: “Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.”  Maharishi said, “The goal of the Transcendental Meditation technique is the state of enlightenment. This means we experience that inner calmness, that quiet state of least excitation, even when we are dynamically busy.”

On Government

Our second VP wrote, “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”  The sage who taught people to raise consciousness said, “Nature’s government spontaneously brings satisfaction to everyone because it promotes all innumerable, diverse tendencies of life in the evolutionary direction.”

On the Laws of Nature

Jefferson wrote, “A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.”  Maharishi noted: “When the mind is attuned to the cosmic law, all the laws of nature are in perfect harmony with the aspirations of the mind.   He also wrote: “You are the master of all the laws of nature if you know the transcendental field.”

On Time

Jefferson, who emphasized doing, wrote, “Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.”  Maharishi, who taught how to attain the state of Being—which is the basis of thinking and doing—wrote “The factor of time is very vital in life. Those who have accomplished great things in the world have been those who valued time in their life. “

The Spirit of Jefferson

While driving to Monticello, I heard a recording of a man at a Unity church claiming to channel Jefferson’s spirit. The enlightened words that came out of this spirit sounded more like what Maharishi might have said in the 20th century than what Jefferson did in the 18th.  Perhaps our President from another age has been turning into an ageless sage.