Not everyone in the Pentagon is a bull-necked, crew-cut general with medals dripping from

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 Not everyone in the Pentagon is a bull-necked, crew-cut general with medals dripping from his chest, an obscenity-laced bark that curls hairs at 50 paces, and a mindset somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Take Ed Winchester. A 20-year civilian accountant in the office of the Secretary of Defense and an Air National Guardsman for nearly a decade before that, the 50-year old Winchester is, depending on your point of view, either a highly developed spiritual seeker or your basic flake. But he definitely is not your average cog in the war machine. Winchester is the founder and president of the Pentagon Meditation Club, a modest group of about 15 Pentagon employees who have been meeting weekly to, well, meditate since 1985. (The club has had several incarnations, actually, dating back to 1976.) He also is the guiding light behind what he dubs the "Spiritual Defense Initiative," a cosmic alternative to Star Wars based on the collective power of individual "peace shields," or auras, to transform consciousness. He'd like to see the United States give this karmic SDI a shot, but his bosses at the Pentagon so far are unimpressed. Winchester's personal interest in meditation began as a teen-ager; his professional involvement began early in his stint at the Department of Defense, when he began to analyze studies of meditation with an eye toward improving internal productivity and performance. But his research stalled when, in 1984, a 150-page technical paper he authored advocating further study of meditative techniques by DOD received a cool reception from his superiors. "I was told that if they acted on the paper, it would draw a lot of attention from Congress, and they didn't want that," he says. So Winchester instead turned his attention to the meditation club. Some of those involved were interested only in the personal benefits of meditation (stress reduction, better health, etc.). Others, Winchester foremost among them, saw the group as an unofficial means to continue the research and experimentation that his bosses had nixed. "I figured we just had to mark time, and soon people in the department would see there was a value here and be willing to look at the broader implications," he recounts. The implications Winchester found broadened right into the peace shield concept. "I was sitting in the meditation room when the idea of a peace shield just came into my awareness," he says. "It's taking the name of God and using it as a vehicle to go into a very deep state of peacefulness -- I call it the peace shield within you." From the discovery of individual peace shields, it was but a short step to spiritual defense: the construction of organizational, nationwide, even plantetary peace shields via concentrated collective meditation. "We are all part of a collective consciousness," he explains. "If I can go into my inner space and direct peaceful, loving thoughts towards out adversaries, it will have an effect. "What is really needed is a transformation of the military mind, to learn how to win the war without violence, how to make your enemy your friend. And that is a bigger challenge than becoming a good marksman.... But if people become more aware of who they are and their connection with the divine, they will see new solutions." Sounds startingly reminiscent of the sentiments of antiwar protesters who tried to levitate the Pentagon some 20 years ago. Only they ringed the building from the outside, while Winchester has a desk in the belly of the beast. "Of course it concerns me to be working here," Winchester says. "But I think you can do more good from inside. After all, the Spiritual Defense Initiative says the problem is inside us, and that's where we have to begin." Winchester says he has discussed his recipe for world peace and harmony with Soviet citizens and officials, and he recently toured the Far East to spread the word. (In Korea's demilitarized zone, he says, he led three hundred clergy in peace-shield meditation.) But it is in his own backyard that Winchester may have to work hardest to sell his distinctly offbeat approach. "I'm not exactly on terra firma here; anything could happen to me at any time," he admits. "Some hawks I work with would love to have my hide. And while I haven't had any direct confrontations with people telling me to ceast and desist, there've been some veiled rumors and threats. "But all I can do is flow with this," concludes the Pentagon's spiritual chief of staff, "and continue to dare to say what needs to be said." -- David Ruben For more information, contact the Pentagon Meditation Club, P.O. Box 46126, The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20050-6126

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