WHEN THE STOCK MARKET TOOK ITS

greatest plunge ever on October 19, fingers immediately started pointing. Reagan was not in control. James Baker was out to lunch. Alan Greenspan was nowhere to be found. But the culprit might have been Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

For some time now, the maharishi has been selling a hopped-up form of transcendental meditation that's come to be known as yogic flying. TMers claim that legions of devotees sitting in the lotus position and bounding around on their haunches create "coherence in brain-wave activity" that, among other things, reverses the aging process, lowers the crime rate and raises the stock market.

When 7,000 TMers assembled and hopped to it in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1984, "Research showed a rise in the U.S. stock market," the maharishi told USA Today in 1985. According to TM literature, "The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 36.1 points during the Assembly." Forget budget cuts and tax increases. Why don't these people get off their butts and get hopping again?

One reason might be that the TM empire is currently hamstrung by litigation. In early November, the maharishi's people were in federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., to contest a lower court ruling that awarded one disgruntled practitioner $137,890 for psychological damage the plaintiff said resulted from TM. A decision in the case is due in about a month. Additionally damaging to a "cohesive brain wave" might be eight other suits that have been filed in D.C. alleging fraud and psychological injury as a result of TM. Should the TM forces lose the appeal, other suits could follow.

Great. Just what the stock market needs. More uncertainty.