Shortly after graduating with a degree in philosophy, George Ellis got a phone call from the Dean of Fine Arts at Sacramento City College. “I read your application,” the Dean said, “and we cannot find anyone to go to Folsom Prison and teach Philosophy, and you are our last hope.”
George did need a job, so he agreed to teach at Folsom, one of the most intense high security correctional facilities in America. What he didn’t know was that this was the first step in a series of events that would dramatically change his life, and affect the lives of thousands over the next 25 years.
As it turns out, George brought another skill with him inside the walls of Folsom Prison. He was a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. In fact, in 1970 he had attended the first TM teacher training course in the United States, held in Estes Park, Colorado.
One day an inmate named Pat Corum asked George why he was so calm and happy, even while teaching inside the prison. When George told him that he practiced TM, Pat said he wanted to meditate too. So George went to the prison on his own time and taught Pat the TM technique. After his first meditation, he told George: “This is the first time in 13 and a half years I have felt relaxation and peace.”
Soon other inmates, seeing the positive changes in Pat Corum, wanted to learn TM. When George taught them, the next step of his journey had begun. He went on to teach the TM technique in correctional facilities in California, Vermont, South and Central America, Europe and Asia. In 1979, George’s first book was published: Inside Folsom Prison: Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program.
Finding the Silence Within
The idea for his second book, A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision, arose following a meeting with Maharishi in 1986, and re-emerged in 2007. George completed the book in 2012, and it’s now available in English and Spanish, with 10 more translations on the way.
A Symphony of Silence is a wonderful 526-page anthology of interviews, articles, and personal stories. There are interviews with Grammy Award-winning musician Paul Horn, businesswoman and philanthropist Susan Gore, scientist David Orme-Johnson, professor of philosophy Jonathan Shear, and attorney Candace Martin.
There are articles by professor of religion Evan Finkelstein, former Deputy Attorney General for the State of Arkansas, Arthur John Anderson, and professor of literature Rhoda Orme-Johnson. The personal stories were written by men and women whose lives were touched by Maharishi’s knowledge and their practice of the TM technique.
The book includes a chapter by Jerry Jarvis, who first met Maharishi in 1961 and for two decades served as National Leader for the TM organization in the United States. “To read this book, to listen to this symphony, is to enjoy the infinite melodies of the Song of Life,” says Jerry. “This collection compiled by George Ellis, this symphony of silence, allows us to more deeply and joyously appreciate the great teaching of life revived by Maharishi.”
As the title suggests, the fundamental message is that there is an inner silence available to each and every one of us. That silence is the source of all our thoughts, actions, and achievements in life, and it is waiting for us to discover it at the quietest level of our own mind.
What we need is a reliable procedure to access that inner silence on a daily basis. And then we need to bring that silence out so we can enjoy it even when we’re in dynamic activity. Fortunately, these needs are fulfilled through Maharishi’s gift of the Transcendental Meditation technique, which he brought out from the silence of the Himalayas in India to share with the world.
As George says in his Closing Reflections: “This book emphasizes that Transcendental Consciousness is within everyone, and the inner stillness of unbounded pure consciousness is constantly emerging to embrace our life—the experience whispers that the inner beauty is our birthright. A Symphony of Silence is offering an insight, an inspiration, a reminder of who we are, and a simple method to enhance the natural evolution of life toward enlightenment.”
Just as a symphony is a stirring and harmonious combination of diverse instruments, George’s book is an evocative and well-composed collection of stories about Maharishi and the wide range of benefits to be gained from the Transcendental Meditation technique.
For George, this book is not the definitive story of Maharishi’s life, but rather a heart-felt tribute and celebration of how Maharishi’s wisdom has transformed the lives of so many people around the world.
Each contributor to A Symphony of Silence has experienced the inner stillness of Transcendental Consciousness and shares their experience with us from his or her unique perspective. Each story inspires us to discover, or rediscover, our own inner silence and live our lives more fully every day.