Not everyone in the Pentagon is a bull-necked, crew-cut general with medals dripping from
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
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
"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
-- David Ruben
For more information, contact the Pentagon Meditation Club, P.O. Box
46126, The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20050-6126
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank