Archive for December, 2009


Sun of God – Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything – A Review by Frances Lynn.

Sun of gOd, which logically states that the Sun is a conscious living organism, should definitely be taught in schools and universities all over the globe. It is an educational tome, especially for blinkered people, who are indoctrinated to believe from an early age that organised religions is the be all and end all of the human race’s very existence. Even people with a broad viewpoint on the puzzle of consciousness, the Big Bang and its eventual consequential explosion of humanity, which is now evolving into the futuristic state of Artificial intelligence, should study this philosophical and enjoyable, thought provoking book.

Gregory Sams, the author who brings ‘our solar benefactor in from the cold in which it was forcibly cast out by today’s dominant religions’, writes in a humorous and accessible style. His prose coherently illustrates in my mind that our three main ‘modern’ religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity have a tendency to act as a stranglehold on their fundamentalist followers. However, cynical secular scientists, especially those who believe in the multiple universes theory, which incidentally Sams articulately disputes in his book, are not the only people who will enjoy reading this fascinating book. Curious scientists would certainly benefit from reading Sun of gOd’s religious theme which focuses on our universe as a consistently expanding ‘whole’.

Sams’ sensible rhetoric, backed by illustrations, comments and quotes from historical sages should sway even the most boxed in brain that one could benefit in part from a pagan viewpoint on life and our very existence. And yes, Sams’ philosophical book has convinced me that the sun possesses intelligence and consciousness, which as the star at the center of the Solar System not only bestows life on our planet’s inhabitants an nature, but also on all substances.

Sun of gOd is not only educational for people who have never stopped to deeply think that the universe is ‘brimming with intelligence’, but also for people who are already aware. As Gregory Sams puts it, ‘the ancient Sumerians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the Maya, Inca and Aztec, and the early Nordic, Celtic and Native Americans cultures may have known something that we do not.’ Sun of gOd works on all levels, not only as an enjoyable and fascinating book about the mechanics and mysteries of our galaxy and beyond, but also as a reference book to be dipped into time and time again. Recommended!

As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, theologian Dr Robert Beckford investigates remarkable parallels to the Christ story in other faiths, some of them predating Christianity by thousands of years.

The Hindu god, Krishna, was conceived by a virgin and his birth was attended by angels, wise men and shepherds. Buddha was also the result of a miraculous birth, and was visited by wise men bearing gifts. He, too, began his ministry at about 30-years-old and performed such miracles as walking on water and feeding 500.

Some people in India believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped from Roman Palestine and ended up in Kashmir. There, they say, he continued to preach, had a wife and child, and later died and was buried.

Jesus was, of course, born a Jew, and Christians believe he is the Messiah prophesied in the Torah, which is the holy scripture of the Jews. Meanwhile, Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet but do not believe he died on the cross. Instead, according to Islam, God saved him and took him up to heaven, and he will return and be buried next to Muhammed.

In this Channel 4 (UK) Christmas Day programme, Robert Beckford attempts to unravel the mystery of why there are so many versions of the Christ story across the world and asks which is the real one, and where this leaves the Christian story and his own belief in Jesus.

An interview with Dr. Amit Goswami
by Craig Hamilton


Introduction

Before you read any further, stop and close your eyes for a moment. Now consider the following question: for the moment your eyes were closed, did the world still exist even though you weren’t conscious of it? How do you know? If this sounds like the kind of unanswerable brain teaser your Philosophy 101 professor used to employ to stretch your philosophical imagination, you might be surprised to discover that there are actually physicists at reputable universities who believe they have answered this question—and their answer, believe it or not, is no.

Now consider something even more intriguing. Imagine for a moment the entire history of the universe. According to all the data scientists have been able to gather, it exploded into existence some fifteen billion years ago, setting the stage for a cosmic dance of energy and light that continues to this day.

Now imagine the history of planet Earth. An amorphous cloud of dust emerging out of that primordial fireball, it slowly coalesced into a solid orb, found its way into gravitational orbit around the sun, and through a complex interaction of light and gases over billions of years, generated an atmosphere and a biosphere capable of not only giving birth to, but sustaining and proliferating, life.

Now imagine that none of the above ever happened. Consider instead the possibility that the entire story only existed as an abstract potential—a cosmic dream among countless other cosmic dreams—until, in that dream, life somehow evolved to the point that a conscious, sentient being came into existence.

At that moment, solely because of the conscious observation of that individual, the entire universe, including all of the history leading up to that point, suddenly came into being. Until that moment, nothing had actually ever happened. In that moment, fifteen billion years happened.

If this sounds like nothing more than a complicated backdrop for a science fiction story or a secular version of one of the world’s great creation myths, hold on to your hat. According to physicist Amit Goswami, the above description is a scientifically viable explanation of how the universe came into being.

Goswami is convinced, along with a number of others who subscribe to the same view, that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. Without an observer, he claims, it only exists as a possibility. And as they say in the world of science, Goswami has done his math.

Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls “monistic idealism,” the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is.

A professor of physics at the University of Oregon and a member of its Institute of Theoretical Science, Dr. Goswami is part of a growing body of renegade scientists who in recent years have ventured into the domain of the spiritual in an attempt both to interpret the seemingly inexplicable findings of their experiments and to validate their intuitions about the existence of a spiritual dimension of life.

The culmination of Goswami’s own work is his book The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. Rooted in an interpretation of the experimental data of quantum physics (the physics of elementary particles), the book weaves together a myriad of findings and theories in fields from artificial intelligence to astronomy to Hindu mysticism in an attempt to show that the discoveries of modern science are in perfect accord with the deepest mystical truths.

Quantum physics, as well as a number of other modern sciences, he feels, is demonstrating that the essential unity underlying all of reality is a fact which can be experimentally verified. Because of the enormous implications he sees in this scientific confirmation of the spiritual, Goswami is ardently devoted to explaining his theory to as many people as possible in order to help bring about what he feels is a much needed paradigm shift.

He feels that because science is now capable of validating mysticism, much that before required a leap of faith can now be empirically proven and, hence, the materialist paradigm which has dominated scientific and philosophical thought for over two hundred years can finally be called into question.

Interviewing Amit Goswami was a mind-bending and concept-challenging experience. Listening to him explain many ideas with which he seemed perfectly at home, required, for me, such a suspension of disbelief that I at times found myself having to stretch far beyond anything I had previously considered. (Goswami is also a great fan of science fiction whose first book, The Cosmic Dancers, was a look at science fiction through the eyes of a physicist.)

But whether or not one ultimately accepts some of his more esoteric theories, one has to respect the creativity and passion with which he is willing to inquire. Goswami is clearly willing to take risks with his ideas and is fervently dedicated to sharing his investigation with audiences around the world. He speaks widely at conferences and other forums about the exciting discoveries of the new science and their significance, not only for the way science is done, but for society as a whole.

In India, the country of his birth, he is actively involved in a growing organized movement to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, through which he is helping to pioneer a graduate institute in “consciousness studies” based on the premise that consciousness is the ground of all being.

Goswami is considered by some to be a pioneer in his field. By attempting to bring material realism to its knees and to integrate all fields of knowledge in a single unified paradigm, he hopes to pave the way for a new holistic worldview in which spirit is put first.

In fact, as far as we know, he is the only new paradigm scientist who is taking a clear stand against the relativism so popular among new age thinkers. At a time when the decay of human values and the erosion of any sense of meaning has reached epidemic scale, it is hard to imagine what could be more important than this.

And yet, for all the important and valuable work he seems to be doing, in the end we are left with serious reservations as to whether Goswami’s approach will ultimately lead to the kind of transformation he hopes for. Thinkers such as Huston Smith and E. F. Schumacher have pointed to what they feel is an arrogance, or at least, a kind of naiveté, on the part of scientists who believe they can expand the reach of their discipline to somehow include or explain the spiritual dimension of life.

Such critics suggest that the very attempt to scientifically validate the spiritual is itself a product of the same materialistic impulses it intends to uproot and, because of this, is ultimately only capable of reducing spirit, God and the transcendent to mere objects of scientific fascination.

Is science capable of proving the reality of the transcendent dimension of life? Or would science better serve the spiritual potential of the human race by acknowledging the inherent limits of its domain? The following interview confronts us with these questions.

Interview

WIE: In your book The Self-Aware Universe you speak about the need for a paradigm shift. Could you talk a bit about how you conceive of that shift? From what to what?

Amit Goswami: The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents—building blocks—of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain.

But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief—all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call “upward causation.” So in this view, what human beings—you and I—think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.

Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes “downward causation.” In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power.

This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency—it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation—but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.

WIE: In your book you refer to this new paradigm as “monistic idealism.” And you also suggest that science seems to be verifying what a lot of mystics have said throughout history—that science’s current findings seem to be parallel to the essence of the perennial spiritual teaching.

AG: It is the spiritual teaching. It is not just parallel. The idea that consciousness is the ground of being is the basis of all spiritual traditions, as it is for the philosophy of monistic idealism—although I have given it a somewhat new name. The reason for my choice of the name is that, in the West, there is a philosophy called “idealism” which is opposed to the philosophy of “material realism,” which holds that only matter is real.

Idealism says no, consciousness is the only real thing. But in the West that kind of idealism has usually meant something that is really dualism—that is, consciousness and matter are separate. So, by monistic idealism, I made it clear that, no, I don’t mean that dualistic kind of Western idealism, but really a monistic idealism, which has existed in the West, but only in the esoteric spiritual traditions. Whereas in the East this is the mainstream philosophy.

In Buddhism, or in Hinduism where it is called Vedanta, or in Taoism, this is the philosophy of everyone. But in the West this is a very esoteric tradition, only known and adhered to by very astute philosophers, the people who have really delved deeply into the nature of reality.

WIE: What you are saying is that modern science, from a completely different angle—not assuming anything about the existence of a spiritual dimension of life—has somehow come back around, and is finding itself in agreement with that view as a result of its own discoveries.

AG: That’s right. And this is not entirely unexpected. Starting from the beginning of quantum physics, which began in the year 1900 and then became full-fledged in 1925 when the equations of quantum mechanics were discovered, quantum physics has given us indications that the worldview might change.

Staunch materialist physicists have loved to compare the classical worldview and the quantum worldview. Of course, they wouldn’t go so far as to abandon the idea that there is only upward causation and that matter is supreme, but the fact remains that they saw in quantum physics some great paradigm changing potential. And then what happened was that, starting in 1982, results started coming in from laboratory experiments in physics.

That is the year when, in France, Alain Aspect and his collaborators performed the great experiment that conclusively established the veracity of the spiritual notions, and particularly the notion of transcendence. Should I go into a little bit of detail about Aspect’s experiment?

WIE: Yes, please do.

AG: To give a little background, what had been happening was that for many years quantum physics had been giving indications that there are levels of reality other than the material level. How it started happening first was that quantum objects—objects in quantum physics—began to be looked upon as waves of possibility.

Now, initially people thought, “Oh, they are just like regular waves.” But very soon it was found out that, no, they are not waves in space and time. They cannot be called waves in space and time at all—they have properties which do not jibe with those of ordinary waves. So they began to be recognized as waves in potential, waves of possibility, and the potential was recognized as transcendent, beyond matter somehow.

But the fact that there is transcendent potential was not very clear for a long time. Then Aspect’s experiment verified that this is not just theory, there really is transcendent potential, objects really do have connections outside of space and time—outside of space and time!

What happens in this experiment is that an atom emits two quanta of light, called photons, going opposite ways, and somehow these photons affect one another’s behavior at a distance, without exchanging any signals through space. Notice that: without exchanging any signals through space but instantly affecting each other. Instantaneously.

Now Einstein showed long ago that two objects can never affect each other instantly in space and time because everything must travel with a maximum speed limit, and that speed limit is the speed of light. So any influence must travel, if it travels through space, taking a finite time.

This is called the idea of “locality.” Every signal is supposed to be local in the sense that it must take a finite time to travel through space. And yet, Aspect’s photons—the photons emitted by the atom in Aspect’s experiment—influence one another, at a distance, without exchanging signals because they are doing it instantaneously—they are doing it faster than the speed of light. And therefore it follows that the influence could not have traveled through space. Instead the influence must belong to a domain of reality that we must recognize as the transcendent domain of reality.

WIE: That’s fascinating. Would most physicists agree with that interpretation of his experiment?

AG: Well, physicists must agree with this interpretation of this experiment. Many times of course, physicists will take the following point of view: they will say, “Well, yeah sure, experiments. But this relationship between particles really isn’t important. We mustn’t look into any of the consequences of this transcendent domain—if it can even be interpreted that way.” In other words, they try to minimize the impact of this and still try to hold on to the idea that matter is supreme.

But in their heart they know, as is very evidenced. In 1984 or ’85, at the American Physical Society meeting at which I was present, it is said that one physicist was heard saying to another physicist that, after Aspect’s experiment, anyone who does not believe that something is really strange about the world must have rocks in his head.

WIE: So what you are saying is that from your point of view, which a number of others share, it is somehow obvious that one would have to bring in the idea of a transcendent dimension to really understand this.

AG: Yes, it is. Henry Stapp, who is a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, says this quite explicitly in one of his papers written in 1977, that things outside of space and time affect things inside space and time. There’s just no question that that happens in the realm of quantum physics when you are dealing with quantum objects.

Now of course, the crux of the matter is, the surprising thing is, that we are always dealing with quantum objects because it turns out that quantum physics is the physics of every object. Whether it’s submicroscopic or it’s macroscopic, quantum physics is the only physics we’ve got. So although it’s more apparent for photons, for electrons, for the submicroscopic objects, our belief is that all reality, all manifest reality, all matter, is governed by the same laws. And if that is so, then this experiment is telling us that we should change our worldview because we, too, are quantum objects.

WIE: These are fascinating discoveries which have inspired a lot of people. A number of books have already attempted to make the link between physics and mysticism. Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics and Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters have both reached many, many people.

In your book, though, you mention that there was something that you felt had not yet been covered which you feel is your unique contribution to all this. Could you say something about what you are doing that is different from what has been done before in this area?

AG: I’m glad that you asked that question. This should be clarified and I will try to explicate it as clearly as I can. The early work, like The Tao of Physics, has been very important for the history of science. However, these early works, in spite of supporting the spiritual aspect of human beings, all basically held on to the material view of the world nevertheless.

In other words, they did not challenge the material realists’ view that everything is made up of matter. That view was never put to any challenge by any of these early books. In fact, my book was the first one which challenged it squarely and which was still based on a rigorous explication in scientific terms.

In other words, the idea that consciousness is the ground of being, of course, has existed in psychology, as transpersonal psychology, but outside of transpersonal psychology no tradition of science and no scientist has seen it so clearly.

It was my good fortune to recognize it within quantum physics, to recognize that all the paradoxes of quantum physics can be solved if we accept consciousness as the ground of being. So that was my unique contribution and, of course, this has paradigm-shifting potential because now we can truly integrate science and spirituality.

In other words, with Capra and Zukav—although their books are very good—because they held on to a fundamentally materialist paradigm, the paradigm is not shifting, nor is there any real reconciliation between spirituality and science. Because if everything is ultimately material, all causal efficacy must come from matter.

So consciousness is recognized, spirituality is recognized, but only as causal epiphenomena, or secondary phenomena. And an epiphenomenal consciousness is not very good. I mean, it’s not doing anything. So, although these books acknowledge our spirituality, the spirituality is ultimately coming from some sort of material interaction.

But that’s not the spirituality that Jesus talked about. That’s not the spirituality that Eastern mystics were so ecstatic about. That’s not the spirituality where a mystic recognizes and says, “I now know what reality is like, and this takes away all the unhappiness that one ever had.

This is infinite, this is joy, this is consciousness.” This kind of exuberant statement that mystics make could not be made on the basis of epiphenomenal consciousness. It can be made only when one recognizes the ground of being itself, when one cognizes directly that One is All.

Now, an epiphenomenal human being would not have any such cognition. It would not make any sense to cognize that you are All. So that is what I am saying. So long as science remains on the basis of the materialist worldview, however much you try to accommodate spiritual experiences in terms of parallels or in terms of chemicals in the brain or what have you, you are not really giving up the old paradigm.

You are giving up the old paradigm and fully reconciling with spirituality only when you establish science on the basis of the fundamental spiritual notion that consciousness is the ground of all being. That is what I have done in my book, and that is the beginning. But already there are some other books that are recognizing this too.

WIE: So there are people corroborating your ideas?

AG: There are people who are now coming out and recognizing the same thing, that this view is the correct way to go to explain quantum physics and also to develop science in the future. In other words, the present science has shown not only quantum paradoxes but also has shown real incompetence in explaining paradoxical and anomalous phenomena, such as parapsychology, the paranormal—even creativity.

And even traditional subjects, like perception or biological evolution, have much to explain that these materialist theories don’t explain. To give you one example, in biology there is what is called the theory of punctuated equilibrium. What that means is that evolution is not only slow, as Darwin perceived, but there are also rapid epochs of evolution, which are called “punctuation marks.” But traditional biology has no explanation for this.

However, if we do science on the basis of consciousness, on the primacy of consciousness, then we can see in this phenomenon creativity, real creativity of consciousness. In other words, we can truly see that consciousness is operating creatively even in biology, even in the evolution of species. And so we can now fill up these gaps that conventional biology cannot explain with ideas which are essentially spiritual ideas, such as consciousness as the creator of the world.

WIE: This brings to mind the subtitle of your book, How Consciousness Creates the Material World. This is obviously quite a radical idea. Could you explain a bit more concretely how this actually happens in your opinion?

AG: Actually, it’s the easiest thing to explain, because in quantum physics, as I said earlier, objects are not seen as definite things, as we are used to seeing them. Newton taught us that objects are definite things, they can be seen all the time, moving in definite trajectories.

Quantum physics doesn’t depict objects that way at all. In quantum physics, objects are seen as possibilities, possibility waves. Right? So then the question arises, what converts possibility into actuality? Because, when we see, we only see actual events. That’s starting with us. When you see a chair, you see an actual chair, you don’t see a possible chair.

WIE: Right—I hope so.

AG: We all hope so. Now this is called the “quantum measurement paradox.” It is a paradox because who are we to do this conversion? Because after all, in the materialist paradigm we don’t have any causal efficacy. We are nothing but the brain, which is made up of atoms and elementary particles.

So how can a brain which is made up of atoms and elementary particles convert a possibility wave that it itself is? It itself is made up of the possibility waves of atoms and elementary particles, so it cannot convert its own possibility wave into actuality. This is called a paradox. Now in the new view, consciousness is the ground of being. So who converts possibility into actuality? Consciousness does, because consciousness does not obey quantum physics.

Consciousness is not made of material. Consciousness is transcendent. Do you see the paradigm-changing view right here—how consciousness can be said to create the material world? The material world of quantum physics is just possibility. It is consciousness, through the conversion of possibility into actuality, that creates what we see manifest. In other words, consciousness creates the manifest world.

WIE: To be honest, when I first saw the subtitle of your book I assumed you were speaking metaphorically. But after reading the book, and speaking with you about it now, I am definitely getting the sense that you mean it much more literally than I had thought.

One thing in your book that really stopped me in my tracks was your statement that, according to your interpretation, the entire physical universe only existed in a realm of countless evolving possibilities until at one point, the possibility of a conscious, sentient being arose and that, at that point, instantaneously, the entire known universe came into being, including the fifteen billion years of history leading up to that point. Do you really mean that?

AG: I mean that literally. This is what quantum physics demands. In fact, in quantum physics this is called “delayed choice.” And I have added to this concept the concept of “self-reference.” Actually the concept of delayed choice is very old. It is due to a very famous physicist named John Wheeler, but Wheeler did not see the entire thing correctly, in my opinion. He left out self-reference.

The question always arises, “The universe is supposed to have existed for fifteen billion years, so if it takes consciousness to convert possibility into actuality, then how could the universe be around for so long?” Because there was no consciousness, no sentient being, biological being, carbonbased being, in that primordial fireball which is supposed to have created the universe, the big bang.

But this other way of looking at things says that the universe remained in possibility until there was self-referential quantum measurement—so that is the new concept. An observer’s looking is essential in order to manifest possibility into actuality, and so only when the observer looks, only then does the entire thing become manifest—including time. So all of past time, in that respect, becomes manifest right at that moment when the first sentient being looks.

It turns out that this idea, in a very clever, very subtle way, has been around in cosmology and astronomy under the guise of a principle called the “anthropic principle.” That is, the idea has been growing among astronomers—cosmologists anyway—that the universe has a purpose. It is so fine-tuned, there are so many coincidences, that it seems very likely that the universe is doing something purposive, as if the universe is growing in such a way that a sentient being will arise at some point.

WIE: So you feel there’s a kind of purposiveness to the way the universe is evolving; that, in a sense, it reaches its fruition in us, in human beings?

AG: Well, human beings may not be the end of it, but certainly they are the first fruition, because here is then the possibility of manifest creativity, creativity in the sentient being itself. The animals are certainly sentient, but they are not creative in the sense that we are. So human beings certainly right now seem to be an epitome, but this may not be the final epitome. I think we have a long way to go and there is a long evolution to occur yet.

WIE: In your book you even go so far as to suggest that the cosmos was created for our sake.

AG: Absolutely. But it means sentient beings, for the sake of all sentient beings. And the universe is us. That’s very clear. The universe is self-aware, but it is self-aware through us. We are the meaning of the universe. We are not the geographical center of the universe—Copernicus was right about that—but we are the meaning center of the universe.

WIE: Through us the universe finds its meaning?

AG: Through sentient beings. And that doesn’t have to be anthropocentric in the sense of only earthlings. There could be beings, sentient beings on other planets, in other stars—in fact I am convinced that there are—and that’s completely consonant with this theory.

WIE: This human-centered—or even sentient-being-centered—stance seems quite radical at a time when so much of modern progressive thought, across disciplines from ecology to feminism to systems theory, is going in the opposite direction.

These perspectives point more toward interconnectedness or interrelatedness, in which the significance of any one part of the whole—including one species, such as the human species—is being de-emphasized. Your view seems to hark back to a more traditional, almost biblical kind of idea. How would you respond to proponents of the prevailing “nonhierarchical” paradigm?

AG: It’s the difference between the perennial philosophy that we are talking about, monistic idealism, and what is called a kind of pantheism. That is, these views—which I call “ecological worldviews” and which Ken Wilber calls the same thing—are actually denigrating God by seeing God as limited to the immanent reality.

On the face of it, this sounds good because everything becomes divine—the rocks, the trees, all the way to human beings, and they are all equal and they are all divinity—it sounds fine, but it certainly does not adhere to what the spiritual teachers knew. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, “All these things are in me, but I am not in them.” What does he mean by that? What he means is that “I am not exclusively in them.”

So there is evolution, in other words, in the manifest reality. Evolution happens. That means that the amoeba is, of course, a manifestation of consciousness, and so is the human being. But they are not in the same stage. Evolutionarily, yes, we are ahead of the amoeba. And these theories, these ecological-worldview people, they don’t see that. They don’t rightly understand what evolution is because they are ignoring the transcendent dimension, they are ignoring the purposiveness of the universe, the creative play. Ken Wilber makes this point very, very well in his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.

WIE: So you would say they have part of the picture but that without this other aspect that you are bringing in, their view is very—

AG: It’s very limited. And that’s why pantheism is very limited. When Westerners started going to India, they thought it was pantheistic because it has many, many gods. Indian philosophy tends to see God in nature, in many things—they worship rocks sometimes, that kind of thing—so they thought it was pantheistic and only somewhat later did they realize that there is a transcendent dimension. In fact, the transcendent dimension is developed extremely well in Indian philosophy, whereas the transcendent dimension in the West is hidden in the cave of a very few esoteric systems such as the Gnostics and a few great masters like Meister Eckhart.

In Jesus’ teachings you can see it in the Gospel according to Thomas. But you have to really dig deep to find that thread in the West. In India, in the Upanishads and the Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita, it is very much explicit. Now, pantheism sounds very good. But it’s only part of the story.

It’s a good way to worship, it’s a good way to bring spirituality into your daily life, because it is good to acknowledge that there is spirit in everything. But if we just see the diversity, see the God in everything, but don’t see the God which is beyond every particular thing, then we are not realizing our potential. We are not realizing our Self. And so, truly, Self-realization involves seeing this pantheistic aspect of reality, but also seeing the transcendent aspect of reality.

WIE: In addition to being a scientist, you are also a spiritual practitioner. Could you talk a little bit about what brought you to spirituality?

AG: Well, I’m afraid that is a pretty usual, almost classic, case. The ideal classic case, of course, is the famous case of the Buddha, who recognized at the age of twenty-nine that all of his pleasure as a prince was really a waste of time because there is suffering in the world.

For me it was not that drastic, but when I was about thirty-seven the world started to fall apart on me. I lost my research grant, I had a divorce and I was very lonely. And the professional pleasure that I used to get by writing physics papers stopped being pleasure.

I remember one time when I was at a conference and all day I had been going around, beating my own drums and arguing with people. Then in the evening when I was alone, I felt so lonely. And I realized that I had heartburn, and I had already exhausted a full bottle of Tums and still it would not go away.

I discovered suffering; I discovered suffering literally. And it is that discovery of suffering that brought me to spirituality, because I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t think of any other way—although I had given up the idea of God entirely and had been a materialist physicist for quite some time. In fact, when my young children asked me one time, “Are you an atheist?” I said something like, “Yeah.” And, “Is there a God?” And I said, “No, I don’t believe in God.”

That kind of thing was quite common for me to say. But in that era, around thirty-seven, that particular world—where God didn’t exist and where the meaning of life came just from brain-pursuits of glory in a profession—just did not satisfy me and did not bring happiness. In fact it was full of suffering. So I came to meditation. I wanted to see if there was any way of at least finding some solace, if not happiness.

And eventually great joy came out of it, but that took time. And also, I must mention that I got married too, and the challenge of love was a very important one. In other words, I very soon discovered after I got married for the second time that love is very different than what I thought it was. So I discovered with my wife the meaning of love, and that was a big contribution also to my own spirituality.

WIE: It’s interesting that, while you turned to spirituality because you felt that science wasn’t really satisfying your own search for truth, you have nevertheless remained a scientist throughout.

AG: That’s true. It’s just that my way of doing science changed. What happened to me, the reason that I lost the joy of science, was because I had made it into a professional trip. I lost the ideal way of doing science, which is the spirit of discovery, the curiosity, the spirit of knowing truth.

So I was not searching for truth anymore through science, and therefore I had to discover meditation, where I was searching for truth again, truth of reality. What is the nature of reality after all? You see the first tendency was nihilism, nothing exists; I was completely desperate.

But meditation very soon told me that no, it’s not that desperate. I had an experience. I had a glimpse that reality really does exist. Whatever it was I didn’t know, but something exists. So that gave me the prerogative to go back to science and see if I could now do science with new energy and new direction and really investigate truth instead of investigating because of professional glory.

WIE: How then did your newly revived interest in truth, this spiritual core to your life, inform your practice of science?

AG: What happened was that I was not doing science anymore for the purpose of just publishing papers and doing problems which enabled you to publish papers and get grants. Instead, I was doing the really important problems. And the really important problems of today are very paradoxical and very anomalous.

Well, I’m not saying that traditional scientists don’t have a few important problems. There are a few important problems there too. But one of the problems I discovered very quickly that would lead me, I just intuited, to questions of reality was the quantum measurement problem.

You see, the quantum measurement problem is supposed to be a problem which forever derails people from any professional achievement because it’s a very difficult problem. People have tried it for decades and have not been able to solve it.

But I thought, “I have nothing to lose and I am going to investigate only truth, so why not see?” Quantum physics was something I knew very well. I had researched quantum physics all my life, so why not do the quantum measurement problem? So that’s how I came to ask this question, “What agency converts possibility into actuality?” And it still took me from 1975 to 1985 until, through a mystical breakthrough, I came to recognize this.

WIE: Could you describe that breakthrough?

AG: Yes, I’d love to. It’s so vivid in my mind. You see, the wisdom was in those days—and this was in every sort of book, The Tao of Physics, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Fred Alan Wolf’s Taking the Quantum Leap, and some other books too—everywhere the wisdom was that consciousness must be an emergent phenomenon of the brain.

And despite the fact that some of these people, to their credit, were giving consciousness causal efficacy, no one could explain how it happened. That was the mystery because, after all, if it’s an emergent phenomenon of the brain, then all causal efficacy must ultimately come from the material elementary particles. So this was a puzzle to me. This was a puzzle to everybody. And I just couldn’t find any way to solve it.

David Bohm talked about hidden variables, so I toyed with his ideas of an explicate order and an implicate order, that kind of thing—but this wasn’t satisfactory because in Bohm’s theory, again, there is no causal efficacy that is given to consciousness. It is all a realist theory.

In other words, it is a theory on which everything can be explained through mathematical equations. There is no freedom of choice, in other words, in reality. So I was just struggling and struggling because I was convinced that there is real freedom of choice.

So then one time—and this is where the breakthrough happened—my wife and I were in Ventura, California and a mystic friend, Joel Morwood, came down from Los Angeles, and we all went to hear Krishnamurti. And Krishnamurti, of course, is extremely impressive, a very great mystic.

So we heard him and then we came back home. We had dinner and we were talking, and I was giving Joel a spiel about my latest ideas of the quantum theory of consciousness and Joel just challenged me. He said, “Can consciousness be explained?” And I tried to wriggle my way through that but he wouldn’t listen.

He said, “You are putting on scientific blinders. You don’t realize that consciousness is the ground of all being.” He didn’t use that particular word, but he said something like, “There is nothing but God.” And something flipped inside of me which I cannot quite explain. This is the ultimate cognition, that I had at that very moment.

There was a complete about-turn in my psyche and I just realized that consciousness is the ground of all being. I remember staying up that night, looking at the sky and having a real mystical feeling about what the world is, and the complete conviction that this is the way the world is, this is the way that reality is, and one can do science.

You see, the prevalent notion—even among people like David Bohm—was, “How can you ever do science without assuming that there is reality and material and all this? How can you do science if you let consciousness do things which are ‘arbitrary’?” But I became completely convinced—there has not been a shred of doubt ever since—that one can do science on this basis.

Not only that, one can solve the problems of today’s science. And that is what is turning out. Of course all the problems did not get solved right on that night. That night was the beginning of a new way of doing science.

WIE: That’s interesting. So that night something really did shift for you in your whole approach. And everything was different after that?

AG: Everything was different.

WIE: Did you then find, in working out the details of what it would mean to do science in this context, that you were able to penetrate much more deeply or that your own scientific thinking was transformed in some way by this experience?

AG: Right. Exactly. What happened was very interesting. I was stuck, as I said, I was stuck with this idea before: “How can consciousness have causal efficacy?” And now that I recognized that consciousness was the ground of being, within months all the problems of quantum measurement theory, the measurement paradoxes, just melted away. I wrote my first paper which was published in 1989, but that was just refinement of the ideas and working out details.

The net upshot was that the creativity, which got a second wind on that night in 1985, took about another three years before it started fully expressing itself. But ever since I have been just blessed with ideas after ideas, and lots of problems have been solved—the problem of cognition, perception, biological evolution, mind-body healing. My latest book is called Physics of the Soul. This is a theory of reincarnation, all fully worked out. It has been just a wonderful adventure in creativity.

WIE: So it sounds pretty clear that taking an interest in the spiritual, in your case, had a significant effect on your ability to do science. Looking through the opposite end of the lens, how would you say that being a scientist has affected your spiritual evolution?

AG: Well, I stopped seeing them as separate, so this identification, this wholeness, the integration of the spiritual and the scientific, was very important for me. Mystics often warn people, “Look, don’t divide your life into this and that.” For me it came naturally because I discovered the new way of doing science when I discovered spirit. Spirit was the natural basis of my being, so after that, whatever I do, I don’t separate them very much.

WIE: You mentioned a shift in your motivation for doing science—how what was driving you started to turn at a certain point. That’s one thing that we’ve been thinking about a lot as we’ve been looking into this issue: What is it that really motivates science?

And how is that different from what motivates spiritual pursuit? Particularly, there have been some people we have discussed—thinkers like E. F. Schumacher or Huston Smith, for example—who feel that ever since the scientific revolution, when Descartes’s and Newton’s ideas took hold, the whole approach of science has been to try to dominate or control nature or the world.

Such critics question whether science could ever be a genuine vehicle for discovering the deepest truths, because they feel that science is rooted in a desire to know for the wrong reasons. Obviously, in your work you have been very immersed in the scientific world—you know a lot of scientists, you go to conferences, you’re surrounded by all of that and also, perhaps, you struggle with that motivation in yourself. Could you speak a little more about your experience of that?

AG: Yes, this is a very, very good question; we have to understand it very deeply.

The problem is that in this pursuit, this particular pursuit of science, including the books that we mentioned earlier, The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, even when spirituality is recognized within the materialist worldview, God is seen only in the immanent aspect of divinity. What that means is: you have said that there is only one reality.

By saying that there is only one reality—material reality—even when you imbue matter with spirituality, because you are still dealing with only one level, you are ignoring the transcendent level. And therefore you are only looking at half of the pie; you are ignoring the other half. Ken Wilber makes this point very, very well.

So what has to be done of course—and that’s when the stigma of science disappears—is to include the other half into science. Now, before my work, I think it was very obscure how this inclusion has to be done. Although people like Teilhard de Chardin, Aurobindo or Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophy movement, recognized that such a science could have come, very few could actually see it.

So what I have done is to give actual flesh to all these visions that took place early in the century. And when you do that, when you recognize that science can be based on the primacy of consciousness, then this deficiency isn’t there anymore. In other words then, the stigma that science is only separateness goes away.

The materialist science is a separatist science. The new science, though, says that the material part of the world does exist, the separative movement is part of reality also, but it is not the only part of reality. There is separation, and then there is integration. So in my book The Self-Aware Universe I talk about the hero’s journey for the entire scientific endeavor.

I said that, well, four hundred years ago, with Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and others, we started the separatist sail and we went on a separate journey of separateness, but that’s only the first part of the hero’s journey. Then the hero discovers and the hero returns. It is the hero’s return that we are now witnessing through this new paradigm.

Mindfulness means to be now and here and perceive with clarity what is happening in your mind and body. It is to consciously observe your breathing, body sensations, actions, thoughts and feelings in the present moment with detachment and pure attention It is a down to earth, universally verifiable practice rooted in the perceptual reality and within the easy reach of ordinary human experience.

Both Buddhists and non Buddhists can apply the principles of mindfulness practice in their daily experiences to gain a better understanding of themselves, their feelings and emotions, problems, relationships, actions and reactions. Mindfulness is a down to earth practice rooted in the reality of your life and your actions.

With mindfulness you learn See Know and Understand Through mindfulness, by observing ourselves we experience the Four Noble Truths personally & gain insight (vipasana) into our own suffering.

Through perfect mindfulness we begin to see the impermanence of things and our own existence. This insight leads to perfection on the Eightfold Path culminating in Nirvana or liberation. The Buddha suggested that mindfulness should be practiced for the following reasons:

1. For the purification of the being
2. For overcoming sorrow and lamentation
3. For the destruction of suffering and grief
4. For reaching the perfect path
5. For the attaiment of Nirvana

The Buddha himself suggested the framework to practice mindfulness in two sutras namely Anapanasati and Satipatthana sutras. Anapanasati is mindfulness of in and out breathing. Those who wish to practice it can do so either sitting standing, reclining or walking, but the body should be upright all the time.

The attention should be fixed on the nostrils and one should start breathing in and breating out mindfully, without making any attempt to control the breathing Anapanasati is not pranayama because there is no attempt to regulate the breathing There are eight gradual steps in the practice of anapanasati which lead to the attainment of higher states of samadhi and liberation.

1. Counting the breaths (ganana)
2. Following the breath (anubandhana)
3. Contact with the breath (phusana)
4. Fixing the breath in deep concentration (thapana)
5. Observing the breath with insight (sallakkhana)
6. Turning away the cycle of births and deaths (vivattana)
7. Purification of seven defilements (parisuddhi)
8. Retrospection (patipassana) It helps us to remain in the present, stay calm under pressure, improve our communication and interaction with people and safeguard ourselves from carelessness and
insensitivity. Satipatthana is another powerful technique suggested by the Buddha to practice mindfulness of:

1. The body (kaya)
2. The feelings (vedana)
3. The mind (citta) and
4. The mental qualities (dhamma)

What we really need to do is arrive at a fundamental acceptance of impermanence. Even though they are continually changing and unreliable, we believe that we are thoughts, emotions, and stories.

However, the only thing that is constant, unchanging, and reliable, is the clarity of our mind stream. Whether we are happy or sad, the cognizant quality of pure consciousness is with us throughout our lives, and continues until enlightenment.

In spite of the fact that the world is so decadent and difficult, and that our lives can be so complex, if we have discovered the inner freedom of the mind, we ourselves can be simple and uncomplicated, and maintain a carefree dignity.


I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe
La luce che tu hai
[I pray we’ll find your light]
Nel cuore resterà
[And hold it in our hearts.]
A ricordarci che
[When stars go out each night,]
Eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
[Let this be our prayer]
Quanta fede c’è
[When shadows fill our day]
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe
Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno lo dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, di fraternità
La forza che ci dà
[We ask that life be kind]
È il desiderio che
[And watch us from above]
Ognuno trovi amor
[We hope each soul will find]
Intorno e dentro sé
[Another soul to love]
Let this be our prayer [Let this be our prayer],
Just like every child
Need to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe
È la fede che
Hai acceso in noi,
Sento che ci salverà

Ellen and Josh Groban sing a hilarious rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart!” Ellen and Josh Groban’s Hilarious Duet!

I first met Marianne Williamson in 2008 at a New York book store where she officiated the launching and signing ceremony of her latest book “The Age of Miracles”

The first impression of her was that she was truly a passionate liberated woman with a mind of her own. And as this video clip testifies, her delivery skills, her body language and postures, her evocative and expressive fluency speak volumes of her being the reflection of embodiment of the sacred feminine.

Enjoy.

Evolutionarymystic.

The Sage of Arunachala” is a 73-minute documentary on the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. With a compelling narration by the acclaimed “Discovery Channel” celebrity, John Flynn, this film takes us from the birth of the sage to his final moments when crowds of devotees pushed in from all sides to have their last darshan (look).

The youtube 7:24 minute clip summarizes his teachings, backdropped by archival films and photos, and takes us to the final day of his life.
Produced by Arunachala Ashrama, New York.

Kenan Institute for Ethics – Speeches & Panels – Video – Why Religion Matters: The Future of Faith in an Age on Disbelief – 
2000-10-26, Huston Smith lecture on “Why Religion Matters: The Future of Faith in an Age on Disbelief.” Huston Smith is the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Syracuse University

Read also the article in this blog, “Can Religion Save Us?” -Tradition, Transcendence, and Ultimate Reality – An interview with Huston Smith by Jessica Roemischer

Can Religion Save Us?
Tradition, Transcendence, and Ultimate Reality

An interview with Huston Smith
by Jessica Roemischer

Introduction

Huston Smith, arguably today’s foremost authority on the world’s great religions, has, for over half a century, dedicated himself to transmitting the wisdom of the traditions through books, television, and film and in the classroom.

His best-known volume, The World’s Religions, has been the standard introductory textbook in college religion courses for thirty years and has sold several million copies.

Dr. Smith has produced three PBS television series and was the focus of Bill Moyers’ five-part PBS special, “The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith.” His documentaries on Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism have received international acclaim.

Having devoted a lifetime to the study of the august traditions of the world, Huston Smith was our preeminent choice to answer the question: Are the religions equipped to navigate the myriad challenges of the third millennium?

Initially, Huston Smith responded to our interview request with a letter saying, “I am hesitant to take part in your projected article for fear of sounding like a spoilsport. I gather that you want to come down hard on the perils that threaten our planet while giving your readers grounds for hope. My personal judgment is that my perspective differs so markedly from the mind-set of your readers that you would do better to bypass me on this one . . .”

We were hooked. What would the dean of comparative religious scholarship have to say in response to perhaps the most important spiritual question of our time, and why did he feel that our readers would not want to hear it? Could there indeed be no cause for hope?

In his innovative and incisive critique of postmodernity, Why Religion Matters, Smith writes, “The sandwich man between placards announcing that the end is near is telling us something important. . . . He is not just protesting our reigning culture. However falteringly, he is gesturing toward a heavenly city that offers an alternative to this earthly one, which is always deeply flawed.”

Indeed, that man could be Huston Smith himself. And, visiting with this wise and generous octogenarian in his modest Berkeley home, for the interview that he did eventually agree to, we found why he believes that, in the face of apocalyptic times, the traditions may help us hope for a good outcome, but they may not be equipped to actually help us manifest it—at least not here on Earth!

WIE: Our existential circumstances at the outset of the twenty-first century distinguish our era significantly from those in which the world’s great religious traditions first emerged. Do you feel that the religious traditions need to reshape themselves in any way at this juncture in history to respond to unprecedented change and the challenges of our current life conditions?

HUSTON SMITH: They need to reshape themselves in one respect only. All of them come down with one voice on advocating charity and compassion over selfishness and egocentricity. And that’s the right foundation.

But in the times when the great sacred texts were revealed, people were isolated, living by themselves, and they did not realize that institutional structures are man-made.

Their social and institutional structures, like slavery, for example, were the way they conceived of natural law. “We can’t change them. We didn’t make these institutions.”

And, therefore, their love, compassion, and charity had to do with face-to-face relationships— the cup of water given in my name to the thirsty person there. But it never occurred to them that they ought to work on changing institutions, injustices, slavery, and so on.

Now, when the cultures and civilizations began to merge and rub shoulders, producing multiculturalism, then people discovered: “Look! They’ve got different institutions from ours! One allows for multiple wives; another one doesn’t.” And so on.

This occurred emphatically in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and with that came the discovery that social structures are human constructs. So that introduced a change in religion because suddenly we were responsible not just for our neighbor but also for these social and institutional structures.

For example, today, there are economic structures and class structures in which those of us who are more well-off, who have savings and stocks and bonds, can prosper just by doing nothing.

We reap the benefits of our consumerism, while at the same time, no family receiving the minimum wage—the marginal people—can live on what they make. But are we compassionate enough to change that? No.

For me, the most important theological text in twentieth-century Christianity is Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society, where he points out that individuals are able to sacrifice themselves, a parent for a child, for example, but collectively, governments and societies are constitutionally incapable of sacrificing themselves.

I mean, what chances would President Bush have for reelection if he said, “We have to lower our standard of living in order to increase foreign aid.” He wouldn’t survive. What faction of society would voluntarily lower its income to raise the income of the destitute?

Now, that bears very practically on the issues we’re considering. So now the religious traditions need to reshape themselves in one respect—to cross over into justice, and then into love.

WIE: That certainly makes sense. The economic injustice you describe and its most extreme expression—rampant worldwide poverty—is just one of the multiple crises we face, which include overwhelming depletion of natural resources, epidemics, and the population explosion. In response to this situation, Father Thomas Berry has written:

The devastation taking place cannot be critiqued effectively from within the traditional religions or humanist ethics. We find ourselves ethically destitute just when, for the first time, we are faced with ultimacy, the irreversible closing down of the earth’s functioning in its major life systems. Our ethical traditions know how to deal with suicide, homicide, and even genocide; but these traditions collapse entirely when confronted with biocide, the extinction of the vulnerable life systems of the earth, and geocide, the devastation of the earth itself. . . . The human is at a cultural impasse. . . . Radical new forms are needed.

What do you think of Father Berry’s assertion that, given the scope of our escalating crisis, the traditions are ultimately incapable of addressing the challenges that confront us?

HS: Back when the scriptures were revealed, the biosphere was just assumed, taken for granted, and so human beings did not see themselves as responsible for it. The movement toward justice means that we now have become aware that we affect the biosphere, and therefore the principle of “choose life” must also move over into that.

I agree completely with Father Berry as to the dangerousness of our situation. But I don’t think we need something other than the religious traditions. I don’t see anything better. In the foundation of all the traditions, compassion is the bottom line.

But, as I was saying, we do need for them to move that compassion over into the social and ecological spheres. If they do not make this move from face-to-face charity and compassion to concern for justice—and in that justice I’m talking about social relations, as well as our effect on the biosphere—then I agree with my friend Father Berry (we’ve been friends for almost a lifetime).

If the religious traditions do not respond to what our new situation requires, then they will be inadequate.

WIE: It seems that a significant aspect of the response that is required would have to be the willingness of the religions to cooperate, to come together as never before, across all cultural and ideological divides. What is your perspective on the ability of the religions to collaboratively address the situation?

HS: You would probably like for me to assure your readers that it will be possible to address these unprecedented issues if the religious traditions unite in responding collaboratively to our global crisis.

But I see no likelihood that they will—or perhaps even can—do this, at this stage of history. Yes, there are attempts. The United Religious Initiative, founded and presided over by Bishop Swing in San Francisco, is large and flourishing, meeting, doing practical things. So that’s a wonderful response.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions has had three important meetings and a fourth is already in the works. Those are good. But I’m afraid these are only gestures. They are only a drop in the bucket.

WIE: Are there other reasons that you think there is no likelihood that the religions can come together to address our human predicament? Is there something fundamental that is impeding them?

HS: Yes. Religion, though I believe deeply in its contribution to civilization and the past, as well as its potential for today—and I would identify myself as a religious person—is, nevertheless, obviously a mixed bag.

For example, it lends itself to being co-opted for political ends, and that’s going on all over the world. Politicians use for political ends the fervor that religion can generate.

And of course, every religion, to serve millions of people over centuries and millennia, has had to say many things to many people, and when the sacred texts were written, they were bringing in the circumstances of their time.

What I’m saying is, everybody, including the people who think of themselves as fundamentalists, has to interpret the Bible or the Koran or any of these revealed texts. And if you let me interpret the Bible, I would say that my interpretation is on the right track. But every text and every tradition is multivalent.

We love to quote, “Beat your swords into plows and your spears into plowshares.” But in Joel, a couple of books later, it says exactly the opposite: “Beat your plows into swords.” Now, which one are you going to pick up on?

I think that, on balance, the traditions do come through on the side of charity and peace and goodwill, but both views are expressed there.

Now, there’s another thing: all of the sacred traditions make a strong point of the fact that we are flawed beings. In Christianity, they call it original sin.

In Islam, they call it ghafla, forgetfulness of our real nature. In Asia, they call it avidya. I think they’re right in saying the fault isn’t God. God didn’t make us that way. It’s a mistake that we made somewhere along the line.

And if we get right down to the source, it is that, the basic problem of our egocentricity, which keeps us from doing what desperately needs to be done.

WIE: But in light of the necessity for individuals and institutions to respond to our increasingly dire situation, don’t the religious traditions have a responsibility to try to shift people’s consciousness about this very thing, to take on the “basic problem of our egocentricity?”

HS: Oh, of course. They have a responsibility—but good luck. The New Yorker magazine used to have a little quip in every issue, “Neatest trick of the week.”

Well, if the traditions could succeed, that would be the neatest trick in human history—changing, redeeming human nature—because that’s too tall an order for any institution or combination thereof.

WIE: But if, in fact, the religions are inadequate to “change and redeem human nature,” where does that leave us, given the extent of our increasing global predicament?

HS: That introduces, I think, a point that’s been important to me. I picked it up from Czech president Vaclav Havel. When he was asked, “Are you optimistic?” he said, “No.” But then he added, “I am hopeful.” Now that’s profound.

What’s the difference? Optimism is the belief that the affairs of our society will come out well and we’ve been given ample reasons to doubt that that is going to happen. Hope is quite different.

To hope is to see our efforts expended in the right direction as being meaningful, despite what the outcome will be. Does the care doctors give to patients require that they think that they are thereby ridding the world of disease?

The fulfillment comes through doing what one can, not in wasting time predicting outcomes. So yes, we should do everything we can, but if that fails, that doesn’t close the doors to a meaningful and, in that sense, hopeful existence—the hope, in this case, deriving from the meaning we find in just putting our efforts in the right direction.

WIE: So, will the “happy ending” or final salvation that the traditions prophesy actually manifest? And, if so, do you believe that will eventuate—as the traditions predict, through divine intervention—in the “second coming”?

HS: For my part, I do say unequivocally that one of the strengths of the great religions is that they promise a happy ending that burgeons after horrendous problems are faced and overcome.

But here’s the decisive thing that our culture is not ready to hear: they want to see the second coming as changing human history, the course of human history on this planet, which we may annihilate like a supernova.

Now, there are phrases in the Bible that point toward it manifesting here—”Thy kingdom come on earth.” Or, as in the basic Hindu view, the material world and its history are like an accordion that comes out and it goes back through the four yugas (ages), ending with the Kali Yuga, the worst one, which goes to the dogs completely.

But then a new cycle begins. Whatever the metaphors and the analogies, it’s our obligation to try to see it happen; we should do our very best to see that it happens on our planet.

And, in fact, none of the traditions claim that that happy ending is realizable on our planet; they say that individuals will experience that happy ending in the afterlife, and collectively it will be realized by the coming of the Messiah when time as we know it closes down (the wording differs from religion to religion).

So, if it doesn’t happen here, that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen, as the Tibetans would say, on some other bardo or some other plane.

WIE: Another plane? Can you expound on that?

HS: Oh, I would be delighted! Science gives us such a perfect analogy for this. And this is a recent realization for me because, although it can tell us nothing directly about God, science is wonderful for analogies for the Divine.

In the last century, it has brought out three domains: the microworld, the macroworld, and the megaworld. We’re in the macroworld. The microworld is quantum mechanics and the megaworld is relativity theory—and neither of those can be mapped onto our ordinary language because our language has been devised to deal with our macroworld.

Now, if those don’t fit into ordinary language, are we to think that God and transcendence and ultimate reality can be literally described in our mundane, everyday language?

That would be like thinking that a three-dimensional globe could be accurately depicted on the pages of a geography book. It doesn’t work. I mean, just as this planet is scarcely a dot in the mega-universe, so ultimate reality or the transcendent dimension is as much beyond our present human experience as fifteen billion light years of space.

So trying to imagine these mind-boggling metaphysical planes is like trying to imagine with my finite mind what different orders of reality would be like. All I can do is to come back to generalizations. It would be absolutely mind-boggling!

And it would be exciting beyond words. One of the best human attempts to provide a metaphor is the image of Plato’s cave. Imagine if we had been prisoners in a cave and thought the world was black and white and had only two dimensions, like shadows, and then we were suddenly swung around to light and taken out into this technicolor world, vast beyond the confines we were in.

To me, that conveys the spirit. We can’t describe that world outside, but just to know that there is such a world can be very heartening.

WIE: Can you say anything more about what the experience of that “metaphysical plane” would be like?

HS: Eternal bliss. Try to imagine that in any way you wish and as far as your imagination can carry you.

What exactly is enlightenment, is it the same as whole brain functioning,or is it something else?

Maharishi: It is the whole brain functioning, but we add,fully-developed whole brain functioning. Full development of the brain can touch cosmic level of creativity of natural law. Cosmic level of creativity of natural law available to human awareness is the state of enlightenment.

In short we can have a glimpse of enlightenment in the conscious awareness of the source of thought, from where intelligence becomes creative intelligence, on that level is the level of enlightenment, on that level is the utilization or existence of total natural law. On that level the whole field of enlightenment is to make our awareness known to that level, the source of thought, so that any thought that rises has the total intelligence of natural law, that means cosmic level of natural law, in every thought.

Cosmic level of thought functioning is the functioning from the level of enlightenment, and that will mean absolutely no mistake, that is one thing, but absolutely all possibility lively in every thought. That is the state of enlightenment in which man will not make mistake, man will hit high, speaking, thinking, behaving, all those values from that fully enlightened awareness.

From there, I am the totality, all these exhortations about the supreme level of life, individual life a cosmic life–that is our strength, educating the people to become familiar with their own source of thought. That is the program of gaining enlightenment.

These groups of Vedic pandits, and these peace creating groups everywhere in the world, will be practicing that value, source of thought, which will capture total potential of creativity of natural law, and then the world will be a purified world.

All this dust and dark of dark ages will disappear, and a new world will be created. That is our field. We are expert in educating the people for enlightenment. All these procedures are very simple procedures, that is our strength to recreate an ideal world.

A Book Review by Douglas G. Richards

Miracles of Mind is a synthesis of parapsychology and spirituality, accessible to general readers, that lucidly presents the authors’ scientific studies, and at the same time goes extensively into their personal spiritual experiences.

The goal of Miracles of Mind is not simply to make a scientific case for psi, [parapsychological phenomena or abilities considered as a group. Shortening and alteration of parapsychological.] but to lead to the kind of spiritual awareness that an acceptance of psi could facilitate.

The authors state, “We believe that psi’s greatest value will be found in its ability to help us discover a deeper understanding of who we are, to enable us to experience our most intimate relationships with each other, and to learn to more fully appreciate the wonder of the universe and our place in it” (p. 286). The strength of this book is that it gives an accurate overview of contemporary parapsychology research, while addressing experiential and spiritual questions.

Is psi only a laboratory curiosity, or is it the universal connecting link among all of us? The authors are well-positioned to explore these questions from the points of view of science and spiritual experience. Russell Targ is well known to parapsychologists for his role as a pioneer in remote viewing research and his familiarity with the experimental approach to psi. Jane Katra, as a spiritual healer, brings in the experiential side, with insights into the meaning of psi and its relationship to healing.

The book begins with several chapters reviewing scientific progress in parapsychology, enlivened by Russell Targ’s anecdotes. Right at the start, Targ discusses his own psychic experiences and his attempts both to study psi as a scientist and to integrate his psychic experiences into his life. In the life-changing experience that eventually led to this book, he had an apparent spontaneous remission of cancer, which he attributes to healing by Jane Katra.

The remote viewing chapters are especially interesting, with Targ’s insider view of formerly classified research. He discusses his personal story of many years of government-sponsored projects on the military applications of psi, with details about the process of remote viewing and insights into the program that have not appeared in published papers.

In succeeding chapters, the book addresses what the authors call the “Golden Experiments” in parapsychology. Their examples are well chosen, and include such classics as the Maimonides Dream Laboratory studies, ganzfeld experiments, remote viewing by other investigators, Braud’s work on healing, Schmidt’s PK contributions, and the findings of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory.

The authors do not dwell on experimental methodology or evaluation of the quality of the evidence, but they provide extensive references for those readers who are inclined to explore the experimental literature in greater depth. For example, there are references to 14 papers by William Braud on various aspects of distant mental influence on living systems.

The book then changes emphasis and speaks primarily from Katra’s perspective as a spiritual healer. Katra’s account is autobiographical, beginning with her experiences with healers in the Philippines and continuing with the development of her own healing abilities.

Katra values this healing ability, not just for its practical results, but for the changes in consciousness she experienced. To understand her experiences, she pursued a variety of approaches to spirituality, including Theosophy and A Course in Miracles.

Her distinction of a spiritual healer as opposed to a psychic healer or energy healer is an important one. For Katra these are different experiential categories. “Spiritual healing is a nonanalytical practice, and unlike psychic healing or energy healing, there are no specific mental or physical moves that lead to success” (p. 255).

Spiritual healing involves compassion, in the presence of surrendered egos. There is an aspect of loving service, as contrasted with merely manipulating energy. For Katra, spiritual healing is not based on technique, in contrast to remote viewing.

What, then, is the connection between Katra’s experiential insights and Targ’s experiments? The authors begin to address the question in a chapter titled, “Are Psychic Abilities Sacred?”
They ask: Is psi a stumbling block on the path to enlightenment? Is it “spiritual” at all, or is it ‘just a technology,” as some remote viewing advocates would have it?

The authors offer the classic contemplative perspective: “Many ancient sacred teachings emphasize the seductive distraction of psychic abilities; they entice us to stray off the spiritual path with thoughts of using them to enhance our individual power or prestige” (p. 138).

On the other hand, the authors feel that “the acceptance of the reality of our mind-to-mind connection can inspire others, as it has done for the authors, to seek our highest potentials as human beings” (p. 138).

The authors explore a variety of spiritual, psychic, and energy healing systems. Although they carefully differentiate psychic and energy healing from spiritual healing on an experiential basis, they do not address how they would experimentally validate their classification: whether this is simply a difference in attitude on the part of the practitioners, or whether we are dealing with different categories of phenomena.

If these are truly different phenomena (i.e., in psychic healing we may be dealing purely with psi, and in spiritual healing we may be dealing purely with God), then the results of parapsychology may be irrelevant to spiritual healing.

At the other extreme, the mechanisms of psi and spiritual healing may be the same, and eventually explainable in physical terms, despite the experiences of the healers themselves of different processes and forms of energy and consciousness.

A major theme in the book is that both psi (in all its manifestations) and spiritual healing are examples of “nonlocal” consciousness, by analogy with experiments demonstrating nonlocal effects in quantum physics.

There is a wide gap, however, between the possibility that the new physics may allow for psychic phenomena and distant healing and the ability of physics to provide testable hypotheses for either the experimental or the spiritual approach.

Despite the authors’ embracing of physics as an explanatory metaphor, referring to “holographic quantum interconnectedness” does little to bridge the science-spirituality chasm. We are still faced with the challenge of integrating a sincere, inward exploration of spirituality and healing with the scientific evidence of parapsychology.

Although it avoids a rigorous exploration of these issues, this book is a step in the right direction, as it highlights phenomena and concepts often neglected in discussions of either parapsychology or spirituality.

Combining a thorough knowledge of the experimental evidence with a personal inward journey is an approach that holds great promise for stimulating a productive dialogue between the scientific and spiritual communities, and encouraging individuals to pursue their own highest development.

Douglas G. Richards “Miracles Of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness And Spiritual Healing. – Review – book review”. Journal of Parapsychology, The. FindArticles.com. 18 Dec, 2009. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2320/is_1_64/ai_65076871/

Russell Targ on NOVA

Read the following article in this blog on Russell Targ’s The Scientific and Spiritual Implications of Psychic Abilities

Since ancient times spiritual teachers have described paths and practices that a person could follow to achieve health, happiness, and peace of mind. Considerable recent research has indicated that any sort of spiritual practice is likely to improve one’s prognosis for recovering from a serious illness.

Many of these approaches to spirituality involve learning to quiet the mind, rather than adhering to a prescribed religious belief. These meditative paths would include all the mystic branches of Buddhism, Hinduism, mystical Christianity, Kabalistic Judaism, Sufism, and many others.

What is hinted at in the subtext of these teachings is that as one learns to quiet his or her mind, one is likely to encounter psychic-seeming experiences or perceptions.
For example, in The Sutras of Patanjali, the Hindu master tells us that on the way to transcendence we may experience all sorts of amazing visions, such as the ability to see into the distance, or into the future, the ability to diagnose illness, and to cure them. But, we are told not to get attached to these abilities they are mere phenomena standing as stumbling blocks on the path to enlightenment.

In this paper we describe the laboratory evidence for some of these remarkable phenomena, and their implications for science, mental health, and peace of mind.

Introduction

What do the spiritual healer, the mystic, and the scientist all have in common? They are all in touch with their interconnected mind as well as their community of spirit. As we move into the new millennium, in every area of human activity we are experiencing a climax in which science and religion are finally becoming coherent in the exclamation of a single unified truth.
In my work with remote viewing research at Stanford Research Institute, we observed the in-flow of information that is the hallmark of psychic perception. We also saw an out-flow of intention that plays a part in facilitating distant healing.

My purpose here is to show that the in-flow and the out-flow reside on either side of the quiet mind, and that self awareness can arise between these two flows. We have also noticed that narrowly focusing on phenomena and the seeming omniscience available from ESP may be just a trap that prevents us from discovering who we really are, and what we should be doing.

However, as we describe in The Heart of the Mind,1 we are confident that whenever any one person demonstrates an ability beyond the ordinary, it is can be seen as an inspiration to the rest of us, as an indication of an immense and still largely undeveloped human potential.

The scientific and spiritual implications of psychic abilities illuminate our observation that we live in a profoundly interconnected world. The most exciting research in quantum physics today is the investigation of what physicist David Bohm calls quantum-interconnectedness or non-local correlations.

It has now been demonstrated repeatedly that quanta of light that are sent off in opposite directions at light speed, maintain their connection to one another, and that each little photon is affected by what happens to its twin, many kilometers away. This surprising coherence between distant entities is called non-locality.

In writing on the philosophical implications of nonlocality, physicist Henry Stapp of the University of California at Berkeley says these quantum connections could be the most profound discovery in all of science. Psychic abilities and remote viewing are demonstrations of our personal experience with such non-local connection in consciousness. Mind-to-mind connections give us expanded awareness, which is entirely consistent with life in a non-local world.

Our knowledge of these remarkable abilities allows us to awaken each morning in wonder at the fact that our expanded awareness is not limited by either time or space. And it should have become clear to us by now that although we reside in bodies, there is more to us than skin and bones. Our quiet moments of self inquiry can reveal what that more is.

Remote Viewing

Stanford Research Institute (SRI) conducted investigations into the human mind’s capacity for expanded awareness, also called remote viewing, in which people are able to envision distant places and future events and activities.

For two decades SRI’s research was supported by the CIA and other government agencies. I was co-founder of this once secret program which began in 1972.
Our task was to learn to understand psychic abilities, and to use these abilities to gather information about the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We have found from years of experience that people can quickly learn to do remote viewing, and can frequently incorporate this direct knowing of the world — both present and future — into their lives.

For a phenomenon thought in many circles not to exist, we certainly know a great deal about how to increase and decrease ESPs accuracy and reliability. Remote viewers can often contact, experience and describe a hidden object, or a remote natural or architectural site, based on the presence of a cooperative person at the distant location, or when given geographical coordinates, or some other target demarcation — which we call an address.

Shape, form and color are described much more reliably than the target’s name, function, or other analytical information. In addition to vivid visual imagery, viewers sometimes describe associated feelings, sounds, smells and even electrical or magnetic fields.

Blueprint accuracy has occasionally been achieved in these double-blind experiments, and reliability in a series can be as high as 80 per cent. For example, the authors recently achieved 11 hits out of 12 trials in such a series2

With practice, people become increasingly able to separate out the psychic signal from the mental noise of memory, analysis, and imagination. Targets and target details as small as 1 mm can be sensed. Moreover, again and again we have seen that accuracy and resolution of remote viewing targets are not sensitive to variations in distance.

In 1984 I organized a pair of successful 10,000 mile remote viewing experiments between Moscow and San Francisco with famed Russian healer, Djuna Davitashvili. Djuna’s task was to describe where our colleague would be hiding in San Francisco. She had to focus her attention ten thousand miles to the west, and two hours into the future to correctly describe his location. These experiments were performed under the auspices and control of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Ten years earlier, in 1974, my colleague Hal Puthoff and I carried out a demonstration of psychic abilities for the CIA in which Pat Price, a retired police commissioner, described the inside and outside of a secret Soviet weapons laboratory in the far reaches of Siberia given only the geographical coordinates of latitude and longitude for a reference. (That is, with no on- site cooperation.)

This trial was such a stunning success that we were forced to undergo a formal Congressional investigation to determine if there had been a breach in National Security. Of course, none was ever found, and we were supported by the government for another fifteen years.

As I sat with Price in these experiments at SRI, he made the sketch shown below right, to illustrate his mental impressions of a giant gantry crane that he psychically saw rolling back and forth over a building at the target site!

Above right is Pat Price’s drawing of his psychic impressions of a gantry crane at the secret Soviet research and development site at Semipalatinsk, showing remarkable similarity to a later CIA drawing based on satellite photography shown at left. Note, for example, that both cranes have eight wheels.

Here is a CIA artist tracing of a satellite photograph of the Semipalatinsk target site. Such tracings were made by the CIA to conceal the accuracy of detail of satellite photography at that time.
Data from our formal and controlled SRI investigations were highly statistically significant (thousands of times greater than chance expectation), and have been published in the world’s most prestigious journals, such as Nature, The Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and The Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences3.

The twenty years of remote viewing research we conducted for the CIA is outlined in Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing, co-authored by Targ and Katra.4
One day, while we were working with Pat Price, he didn’t arrive for the scheduled experiment. So, in the spirit of the show must go on, I spontaneously decided to undertake the remote viewing myself. Prior to that, I had been only an interviewer and facilitator for such trials.

In this series we were trying to describe the day-to-day activities of Hal Puthoff as he traveled through Columbia, in South America. We would not receive any feedback until he returned, and I therefore had no clues at all as to what he was doing. I closed my eyes and immediately had an image of an island airport. The surprisingly accurate sketch I drew is shown below. What we learned from this trial, is that even a scientist can be psychic, when the necessity level is high enough.

Sketch produced by physicist Russell Targ, when he spontaneously took the role of remote viewer in the absence of psychic Pat Price.

This photograph shows the target, which was an airport on an island off San Andres, Columbia. Targ correctly saw, “Ocean at the end of a runway.”
Recent research in areas as different as distant healing and quantum physics are in agreement with the oldest spiritual teachings of the sages of India, who taught that separation is an illusion. This concept suggests that there is no distance for consciousness, and we have an intuitive inner knowledge of time and space.

In fact, we now know that information from the future regularly filters into our dreams � one could fairly say that these precognitive dreams indicate that the future affects our past.
That is, our dream tonight may sometimes be caused by an event which we will experience at a later time strongly violating our ordinary understanding of causality.

In research by the authors, who are respectively a physicist and a spiritual healer, we have been exploring how our mind’s ability to transcend the limits of space and time is linked to our now well-documented capacity for distant healing.

We do not yet know the physics underlying psychic abilities. But, researchers in the field of parapsychology agree on the undeniable observation that it is no more difficult to psychically describe a picture or an event in the near future, than it to describe such a target in the present, when it is hidden from view.5

It is as though our bodies reside in the familiar four-dimensional geometry of Einstein’s space-time, while our consciousness has access to another aspect of this geometry that allows us to find a mental path of zero distance to seemingly distant locations.

This is how a physicist expresses such an idea, while mystics for the past three millennia tell us from their experience that separation is an illusion � and we are all one in spirit, or consciousness.
From experimentation in laboratories around the globe, it is clear that we significantly misapprehend the physical nature of the space-time in which we reside. It is this knowledge, together with our experience, that drives our passion to understand and learn more about the universe and the transformational opportunities offered us.

Joseph Campbell is famous for teaching that our lives are fulfilled only when we follow our bliss or passion. For Thomas Aquinas this passion was pursued through conscious reasoning. He wrote that:
The ultimate human felicity is found in the operation of the intellect, since no desire carries us to such heights as the desire to understand the truth. Indeed all our desires for pleasure or for other things can be satisfied, but the desire to understand does not rest until it reaches God.However, those who truly understand the truth of God tell us that God can not be understood � only experienced.

Distant Mental Influence of Living Systems

More than thirty years of investigations clearly show that one person’s thoughts can affect the physiological functioning of another, distant person. We do not yet understand the causal mechanism involved, but the results are indisputable, and have obvious implications for our ability to facilitate healing in others.

We take for granted the calming effects that a mother’s gentle cooing has on her distressed infant, not really thinking about the effects of her soothing intentions. How do we know that our thoughts affect others?

A significant body of research now exists demonstrating that one person’s focused intentions can directly influence the physiological processes of someone far away. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you takes on new meaning when you realize we are all truly connected, as the following research studies show.

Exciting experiments in the area of Distant Mental Influence of Living Systems (DMILS) have been carried out by psychologist William Braud at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, and anthropologist Marilyn Schlitz, Research Director for the Institute of Noetic Sciences.6

They have repeatedly shown that if a person simply attends fully to a distant person whose physiological activity is being monitored, he or she (acting as a sender) can influence the distant person’s autonomic galvanic skin responses. In four separate experiments involving 78 sessions, one person staring intently at a closed-circuit TV monitor image of a distant participant, influenced the remote person’s electrodermal (GSR) responses.

In these cases no techniques of intentional focusing or mental imaging were used by the influencer. He or she simply stared at the “staree’s” image on the video screen during the thirty-second trials which were randomly interspersed with control periods.

In these studies, Braud and Schlitz discovered something even more interesting than this telepathically-induced effect on our unconscious system. They found that the most anxious and introverted people being stared at had the greatest magnitudes of unconscious electrodermal responses.

In other words, the more shy and introverted people reacted with significantly more stress to being stared at than did the sociable and extroverted people. Quiet introverts may possess, or have developed, a sensitivity of consciousness that others are less aware of. This experiment gives scientific validation to the common human experience of feeling stared at and turning around to find that someone is, indeed, staring at you.

We are all familiar with the idea of premonition, in which one has an intuitive apprehension of something about to happen in the future usually something bad! There is also the experience of presentiment, wherein one has an inner sensation — a gut feeling that something strange is about to occur.

An example would be for you to suddenly stop on your walk down the street because you felt uneasy, only to have a flower pot then fall off a window ledge and land at your feet instead of on your head. That, of course, would be a useful presentiment.

In the laboratory, we know that showing a frightening picture to a person produces a significant change in his or her physiology. Their blood pressure, heart rate, and skin resistance all change.
This fight-or-flight reaction is called an orienting response. Researcher Dean Radin at the Boundary Institute, in Los Altos, California, has shown in his research that this orienting response is also observed in a person’s physiology a few seconds before viewing the scary picture! If ESP were an electro-magnetic phenomenon, this would be called an advanced wave.

In balanced, double-blind experiments, Radin has demonstrated that just before viewing scenes of violence or sexuality, your body apparently reacts to defend itself against the oncoming insult or surprise.
However, such strong anticipatory shock reactions did not precede the viewing of a picture of a wastebasket, or flower garden. Of course, fear is much easier to measure physiologically than bliss.

Here, it seems, your direct physical perception of the shocking picture, when it occurs, causes you to have a unique — five seconds earlier — physical response. Your future is affecting your past. These intriguing experiments are also described in Radin’s comprehensive book The Conscious Universe. 7

Distant Healing

From the dawn of history certain individuals have been recognized as possessing special healing gifts. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt viewed healers as revered advisors. And it was healers who actually founded the world’s great religions: Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophet Muhammad were all gifted healers.

The earliest Christians were primarily a healing community. And centuries before Jesus, the Hebrew prophets Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah were acknowledged healers; and Moses is said to have healed many Israelites from serpent bites.

Medicine men and healing shamans throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas held some of most esteemed positions in their tribes. In contrast, the progression of Western thought has largely ignored the broad range of mind-to-mind healing that has worked in other cultures. With our reverence for Humanism and Reason, we have much to relearn about the role of consciousness in healing. Only now are we realizing the power of the mind to heal through the scientific method. In recent years, a number of pioneering experiments have explored the role one person’s consciousness may have on another person’s health.

In his 1993 book Healing Research, psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Benor examined over 150 controlled studies from around the world. He reviewed psychic, mental, and spiritual healing experiments done on a variety of living organisms — enzymes, cell cultures, bacteria, yeasts, plants, animals, and humans. More than half of the studies demonstrate significant healing.8

An important study by Fred Sicher, Dr. Elisabeth Targ, and others was published in the December, 1998 issue of The Western Medical Journal describing healing research carried out at California Pacific Medical Center.9 It describes the positive therapeutic effects of distant healing on men with advanced AIDS.

In this mainstream medical journal the researchers defined non-local or distant healing as an act of mutation intended to benefit another person’s physical and/or emotional well-being at a distance; adding that, It has been found in some form in nearly every culture since prehistoric time.

Their research hypothesized that an intensive ten-week distant healing intervention by experienced healers located around the U.S. would benefit the medical outcomes for a population of advanced AIDS patients in the San Francisco area.

The researchers performed two separate, randomized, double-blind studies: a pilot study involving twenty male subjects stratified by number of AIDS-defining illnesses, and a replication study of forty men carefully matched into pairs by age, T-cell count, and number of AIDS-defining illnesses.

The participants’ conditions were assessed by psychometric testing and blood testing at enrollment, after the distant healing intervention, and six-months later, when physicians reviewed their medical charts.

In the pilot study, four of the ten control subjects died, while all of subjects in the treatment group survived. But this result was possibly confounded by unequal age distributions in the two groups.
In the replication study, men with AIDs were again recruited from the San Francisco Bay Area. They were told that they had a fifty-fifty chance of being in the treatment group, or the control group. All subjects were pair-matched for age, CD4 count, and AIDS defining diseases.

Forty distant healers from all parts of the country took part in the study. Each of them had more than five years experience in their particular form of healing. They were from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American, and shamanic traditions, in addition to secular bio-energetic schools. Each subject in the healing group was treated by a total of ten different healers on a rotating healing schedule. Healers were asked to work on their assigned subject for approximately one hour per day for six consecutive days, with instructions to direct an intention of health and well-being to the subject they were attending to.

None of the forty subjects in the study ever met the healers, nor did they or the experimenters know into which group anyone had been randomized. By the mid-point of the study neither group of subjects was able to significantly guess whether or not they were in the healing condition. However, by the end of the study, there were many fewer opportunistic illnesses, allowing the healing group to be able to identify itself — with significant odds against chance. Since all subjects were being treated with Triple-Drug Therapy, there were no deaths in either group.

The treatment group experienced significantly better medical and quality of life outcomes (odds of 100 to 1) on many quantitative measures, including fewer outpatient doctor visits (185 vs. 260); fewer days of hospitalization (10 vs. 68); less severe illnesses acquired during the study, as measured by illness severity scores (16 vs. 43); and significantly less emotional distress.

Dr. Targ concludes, Decreased hospital visits, fewer severe new diseases, and greatly improved subjective health supports the hypothesis of positive therapeutic effects of distant healing.
The editor of the journal introduced the paper thus: The paper published below is meant to advance science and debate. It has been reviewed, revised, and re-reviewed by nationally known experts in biostatistics, and complementary medicine.

We have chosen to publish this provocative paper to stimulate other studies of distant healing, and other complementary practices and agents. It is time for more light, less dark, less heat.
Two other studies of distant healing have been published in prestigious medical journals. In 1988 Dr. Randolph Byrd published in The Southern Medical Journal a successful double-blind demonstration of distant healing.

The study involved 393 of his cardiac patients, at San Francisco General Hospital.10 And in 1999, cardiologist William Harris of the University of Missouri in Kansas City, published a similar successful study with 990 heart patients. His paper appeared in The Archives of Internal Medicine.11

Scientists don’t yet clearly understand how the mind-stuff of one’s own intentions results in the contractions of one’s muscles. It remains a mystery, how the invisible mind moves the physical body.
But we do know now that it is more powerful than we previously thought. Twentieth century science has documented that our thoughts affect others � that we are all interconnected through our consciousness. We aren’t even alone in experiencing the effects of our own thoughts!

We are actually already hooked up to the psychic Internet Jung’s collective unconscious. But the users are primarily those who have learned to stop their thoughts and rest their attention. They are tuning in to access and affect the exchange of information.

Why Would A Scientist Pray?

Today, many of us are searching for a comprehensible spirituality, one in which experience takes primacy over religious belief. It is evident that a person need not believe or take on faith anything about the existence of universal spirit, because the experience of God is a testable hypothesis, as we describe below.

However, philosophical proof is not our purpose. Rather, we have become aware that this experience is available to anyone seeking a spiritual life who at the same time desires to remain a critical and discerning participant in the twenty-first century.

We can include God in our lives without giving up our minds, if we can transcend our usual analytical thoughts and learn to become mindful. A scientist might pray, or search for the peace which passes understanding as a way to experience the truth without conscious thought.

In his 1939 essay Science and Religion, Albert Einstein suggested that we each have the potential for a greater awareness of truth than analysis alone can offer: Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends. But, the ultimate goal itself, and the longing to reach it, must come from another source.

Wisdom teachers throughout history have shown that the experience of God is possible without belonging to a church or following a religion, as long as one’s basic motive is to discover truth. Dr. Herbert Benson recently proposed that we our bodies and our brains are hard-wired for God.

By this he means that throughout the past twenty-five hundred years � from Buddha, Jesus, and the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hassidic Judaism), to such poets as Rumi, Blake, and Emerson mystics have shared a common experience that is actually available to us all. In all the mystic paths, the experience of God is celebrated, rather than the belief in God, or the religious ritual. The Sufi poet Rumi shared his thoughts which arose after experiencing his own divinity:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

Whenever we sit peacefully and quiet our mind, we have an opportunity to experience an oceanic connection with something outside our separate self. To many, that connection is experienced as an overpowering feeling of love, and it may well constitute part of our evolutionary process as a species.

This feeling of universal love, without any particular object, is often associated with the realization that we reside within an extended community of spirit enveloping all living beings.
Such feelings of unbounded interconnected consciousness have been described by many as an experience of God. The gift of a quiet mind allows us to understand what it means to be in love, like being immersed in loving syrup, as contrasted with being in love with another person.

It is possible to reside in love (or gratitude) as a way of life. This experience is the source of the often-heard expression that God is love, which in an ordinary context is easily dismissed as a simple cliché, or worse, as not even comprehensible.

These oceanic, loving, peaceful experiences are examples of the compelling feeling of oneness that mystics have been urging us to explore for millennia. Jesus called this state of awareness the peace that passes all understanding, and a kingdom which is not of this world. Hindus call it bliss, or ananda. And Buddha called it a state of no-mind, meaning the absence of thoughts disrupting awareness of indivisible unity.

This state is available to us now, while we reside in the world, whether or not we know or follow any religious teachings. Psychologist Joan Borysenko has written, When the heart is open, we overcome the illusion that we are separate from one another.

The Path of Self Inquiry

Early in the twentieth century, two of the world’s greatest logicians, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Alfred Ayer attempted to describe the physics and metaphysics of what can be known about reality.
These Logical Positivists proclaimed that nothing meaningful could be said about God, because no experiment could be designed to either prove or disprove (verify or falsify) whatever one might say.

But, by the end of their lives, both Wittgenstein and Ayer were willing to seriously examine the idea that the experience of mystics might actually be considered data � something observable in an experiment. In fact, in Wittgenstein’s last book, On Certainty, he gave primacy to experience over theory. This pre-eminent logician tells us, The solution to the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.

For thousands of years, various wisdom teachers have presented a world view to all who will listen. They have described a sit down and be quiet practice that is available for all to observe and experience.

They then invite us to examine our experience, and see if it corresponds with their teaching. Ultimately, this seems like an acceptably scientific, empirical approach to spirituality.
Thirty years ago national U.S. magazines proclaimed on their covers that God is dead. Today, we would say that God is neither alive nor dead, but rather manifesting as activity in consciousness — transcending and transforming one’s ordinary awareness.

God is an active personal experience rather than a distant entity in the sky. Our five familiar senses bring us data of the material world, while filtering out and limiting our exposure to the wider, transcendent world of active awareness available to the quiet mind. The direction of our attention is the most powerful tool we have to transform our lives.

After centuries of academic bombast, we are finally coming to recognize how tentative so-called scientific truth really is. In a scientific world increasingly governed by so-called laws of indeterminacy (Werner Heisenberg) and nonlocality (John Bell) in physics and incompleteness (Kurt Gödel) in mathematics, we are beginning to find room for the experience of God.

Philosopher Ken Wilber makes this point with great force in his book Quantum Questions.12 He asserts convincingly that although physics will never explain spirituality, the spiritual realms may be explored by the scientific method:

The preposterous claim that all religious experience is private and noncommunicable is stopped dead by, to give only one example, the transmission of the Buddha’s enlightenment all the way down to present-day Buddhist masters (which allows it to be experienced and discussed today).

Wilber describes three different, but equally valid, avenues of scientific empiricism: The eye of the flesh, which informs us about the world of our senses; the eye of the mind, which allows us access to mathematics, ideas, and logic; and the eye of contemplation, which is our window to the world of spiritual experience.

None of these approaches suggest that we must embrace any body of dogma, or that we need to integrate Santa Claus into a scientific view of the modern world. They do, however, invite us to look beyond our thinking mind to discover who we are.

People everywhere are searching for ways to bring meaning into their stressful lives. Our days are filled with an increasing number of activities, and a decreasing amount of time in which to do them. We look for happiness through the acquisition of things. We want things, and we want them desperately. We want them now, and we want them to last forever.

Despite owning more possessions than any people in history, despite our advanced learning, sophisticated communication and technological apparatus, our lives often seem overshadowed by feelings of isolation, despair, and powerlessness. And we feel this during the greatest period of prosperity and good health in history.

We seem unable to change the course of our individual lives, our communities, or our environment, where life often seems hopelessly threatened. This frustration occurs because our wealth and all its distractions cannot substitute for what is really essential our ability to take control of our own minds, and investigate the source of our consciousness.

The Perennial Philosophy first described by Aldous Huxley is the thread of universal truth that permeates all the world’s spiritual traditions. It teaches us that alongside the actions we take to improve our world, we also have the opportunity to experience either unity and peace, or isolation and fear.

And from the ancient Hindu Vedas, as well as the contemporary teaching of A Course in Miracles, we learn that we give all the meaning there is, to everything we experience. While we can’t always control the events around us, we do have power over how we experience those events. At any moment, we can individually and collectively affect the course of our lives by choosing to direct our attention to the aspect of ourselves which is aware – and through the practice of self inquiry, to awareness itself.

We can ask, Who is aware? and then, Who wants to know? The choice of where we put our attention is ultimately our most powerful freedom. Our choice of attitude and focus affects not only our own perceptions and experiences, but also the experiences and behaviors of others.

Spiritual teacher Gangaji, who points to the path of self-inquiry, reminds us that we are already completely whole, totally free, and permanently at peace. She suggests that we are beings of consciousness, participating in what the authors would call non-local awareness. She writes:What is choiceless is the truth of who you are. Choice lies in the mind’s ability to either deny that truth or accept it That choice is free will. You are naturally consciousness You are naturally one with God. 13

Mahatma Gandhi taught that the only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts. That is where the battles should be fought. Heaven and Hell are available for the asking, but no experience can take place in our lives except in our consciousness, and with our agreement. A master told his student: You don’t have to look for God. God is here now. If you were ever here, you would see him.

We conclude that the scientific and spiritual implications of psychic abilities are evident in the continually unfolding mystery of the space-time in which we live. And a quiet mind has the opportunity for experiencing itself as love that is timeless, eternal, and unseparated by our bodies.

If one wishes to investigate this perennial experience, he or she can follow the suggestions offered by A Course in Miracles which, like the Vedas, teaches that walking with God is like surrendering to gratitude, or the experience of oneness that is available at all times.

It is not talking about self-improvement, but rather self-realization. It has the following to say about the purpose of this surrender — and the life-changing power of transcendence packed into the simple-seeming idea that I rest in God:

This thought will bring you the rest and quiet, peace and stillness, and the safety and happiness you seek. This thought has the power to wake the sleeping truth in you whose vision sees beyond appearances to that same truth in everyone and everything there is.

Here is the end of suffering for all the world, and everyone who ever came and yet will come to linger for a while. Completely undismayed, this thought will carry you through storms and strife, past misery and pain, past loss and death, and onward to the certainty of God.14

References
1. Jane Katra and Russell Targ, The Heart of the Mind: How to experience God without Belief, Novato, CA, New World Library,1999
2. R. Targ, J. Katra, D. Brown, and W. Wiegand, Viewing the future: A pilot study with an error-detecting protocol, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 9:3, pp. 367-380, 1995.
3. H. E. Puthoff & R. Targ, �A Perceptual Channel for Information Transfer Over Kilometer distances: Historical Perspective and Recent Research. Proc. IEEE, Vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 329 -254, March, 1976; R. Targ and H. Puthoff, Information transfer under conditions of sensory shielding. Nature, 251, 602-607, 1975; H. E. Puthoff , R. Targ & E.C. May, Experimental Psi Research: Implication for Physics, in the AAAS Proceedings of the 1979 Symposium on the Role of Consciousness in the Physical World, 1981.
4. Russell Targ and Jane Katra, Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1998.
5. B. J. Dunne, R. G. Jahn, and R. D. Nelson, Precognitive Remote Perception, Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (Report). Princeton, N.J., August, 1983.
6. Marilyn Schlitz and Stephen LaBerge, Covert Observation Increases Skin Conductance in Subjects Unaware of When They are Being Observed: A Replication, Journal of Parapsychology, September 1997, 185-196; W. Braud & M. Schlitz, Psychokinetic Influence on Electro-Dermal Activity, Journal of Parapsychology, 47, 1983, pp. 95-119.
7. Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997.
8. Daniel J. Benor, Healing Research. Volume 1.� Munich, Germany: Helix Verlag, 1992.
9. Fred Sicher, Elisabeth Targ, Dan Moore, & Helene Smith, A Randomized Double-Blind Study of the Effect of Distant Healing in a Population With Advanced AIDS,� Western Journal of Medicine, 169, December 1998, pp. 356-363.
10. Randolph C. Byrd, Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population, Southern Medical Journal, 81: 7, July 1988, pp. 826-829.
11. William S. Harris. et al, �A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Remote Intercessory Prayer on Outcomes in Patients Admitted to the Coronary Care Unit, Archives of Internal Medicine, 159, Oct. 25, 1999, pp. 2273-2278.
12. Ken Wilber, Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World’s Great Physicists. Boston: Shambhala, 1984.
13. Gangaji, freedom & resolve: The living edge of surrender. Novato, California: The Gangaji Foundation, 1999.
14. �A Course in Miracles, Workbook lesson 109. Glen Ellen, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace, 1975.

%d bloggers like this: