Unbroken Wholeness: The Emerging View of Human Interconnection
The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts. --David Bohm and Basil J. Hile, The Undivided Universe.1
"I suddenly developed a severe headache in the back of my head," the nurse said tearfully. "It was so painful I could not function and had to leave work. This was strange, because I never have headaches. When I reached home and was lying in bed, the phone rang. I learned that my beloved brother had been killed from a gunshot wound to the back of his head, the same place my terrible headache was located. My headache began at the same time the shooting occurred."
The woman was a prominent nurse leader at a major hospital in northern California. The occasion was a Q and A session after an address I had given to senior staff of the hospital consortium to which her hospital belonged. My topic was the importance of empathy, compassion, and caring in healing and healthcare. I had reviewed empirical evidence suggesting that empathy and compassion are more than vaporous emotions that float in our bodies somewhere above our clavicles. They are part of our biological makeup, I suggested. Although empathy and compassion arise when we are in the presence of another person, as when a nurse or physician is at the bedside of a patient, evidence suggests their effects are also felt between individuals at a distance, beyond the reach of the senses. Distant individuals often share feelings, sensations, and thoughts, particularly if they are emotionally close. These experiences, I explained, are called telesomatic events. Hundreds of such cases have been reported over the years but have been largely ignored.
This discussion had prompted the nurse to reveal her experience to several hundred of her colleagues in the audience. "Now I have a name for what happened between my brother and me," she said. "Now I can talk about it." Her story riveted the audience. When she finished, she was not the only person in the room in tears.
Levels of Connectedness
Neuron to Neuron
In 2009, a team of Italian researchers led by neuroscientist Rita Pizzi demonstrated that when one batch of human neurons was stimulated by a laser beam, a distant batch of neurons registered similar changes, although the two were completely shielded from each other.2 See Table 1.
Brain to Brain
In 1965, researchers T. D. Duane and Thomas Behrendt decided to test anecdotal reports that identical twins share feelings and physical sensations even when far apart. In two of 15 pairs of twins tested, eye closure in one twin produced not only an immediate alpha rhythm in his own brain, but also in the brain of the other twin, even though he kept his eyes open and sat in a lighted room.3
The publication of this study in the prestigious journal Science evoked enormous interest. Ten attempted replications soon followed by eight different research groups around the world. Of the 10 studies, eight reported positive findings, published in mainstream journals such as Nature and Behavioral Neuroscience.4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
In the late 1980s and 1990s, a team headed by psychophysiologist Jacobo Grinberg-Zylberbaum at the University of Mexico published experiments that, like most of the previous studies, demonstrated correlations in the electroencephalograms (EEGs) of separated pairs of individuals who had no sensory contact with each other.14, 15, 16
Two of the studies were published in the prominent journals Physics Essays and the International Journal of Neuroscience, drawing further attention to this area.17, 18, 19
Experiments in this field became increasingly sophisticated. In 2003, Jiri Wackerman, an EEG expert from Germany's University of Freiburg, attempted to eliminate all possible weaknesses in earlier studies and applied a refined method of analysis. After his successful experiment he concluded, "We are facing a phenomenon which is neither easy to dismiss as a methodological failure or a technical artifact nor understood as to its nature. No biophysical mechanism is presently known that could be responsible for the observed correlations between EEGs of two separated subjects."20
As functional magnetic resonance imaging brain-scanning techniques matured, these began to be used, with intriguing results. Psychologist Leanna Standish at Seattle's Bastyr University found that when one individual in one room was visually stimulated by a flickering light, there was a significant increase in brain activity in a person in a distant room.19
In 2004, three new independent replications were reported, all successful -- from Standish's group at Bastyr University,18 from the University of Edinburgh,21 and from researcher Dean Radin and his team at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.22
Person to Person
Strong evidence that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors may influence someone remotely has surfaced in recent analyses of social networks. James H. Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School, published a provocative article in 2008 in the British Medical Journal, titled "Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network."23
Christakis states, "[H]appiness is more contagious than previously thought... Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don't even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you. ... Emotions have a collective existence -- they are not just an individual phenomenon."24
From 1983 to 2003, Fowler and Christakis collected information from 4,739 people enrolled in the well-known Framingham Heart Study and from several thousand other individuals with whom they were connected -- spouses, relatives, close friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They found, says Fowler, that, "[I]f your friend's friend's friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket." The idea that the emotional state of your friend's friend's friend could profoundly affect your psyche created a sensation in the popular media. As a Washington Post journalist put it, "[E]motion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other."25
It's not just happiness that gets around. The team also found that depression, sadness, obesity, drinking and smoking habits, ill-health, the inclination to turn out and vote in elections, a taste for certain music or food, a preference for online privacy, and the tendency to think about suicide are also contagious.26, 27
Christakis and Fowler published their findings about the spread of obesity in large social networks in the New England Journal of Medicine, widely considered the most influential medical journal in the world. They showed that obesity in people you don't know and have never heard of could ricochet through you. They attributed the contagiousness of obesity to a "social network phenomenon" without proposing any specific physiological or psychological mechanism.28
To label something, however, is not to explain it, and to merely call this sort of thing a "social network phenomenon" has all the explanatory value of saying "what happens happens." In the commentary that accompanied the article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the experts who weighed in took the same tack. They discussed the genetic factors that influence obesity and the connections within and between cells in an individual that may contribute to overweight, but they too were mute about how distant humans might influence one another when they are beyond sensory contact.
Some suggest that the ripples work through the action of mirror neurons, which are brain cells believed to fire both when we perform an action ourselves and when we watch someone else doing it. But when people are remote from each other, there is no one to watch, and therefore no stimulus for the mirror neurons to fire. Others suggest that the spread is through mimicry, as when people unconsciously copy the facial expressions, body language, posture, and speech of those around them. There is a hint of desperation in these attempts to find some sneaky physical factor that mediates changes between distant individuals. However, when all is said and done, Fowler and Christakis 29 say they don't really know how happiness, obesity, etc. spread. The fact that your friend's friend's friend, someone you've neither seen nor heard of, is affecting your health has begun to rattle many of the gatekeepers in medicine.
This field may be a bomb with a delayed fuse that is getting ready to explode in the very heart of materialistic medicine. A few medical insiders are raising the possibility that something heretofore unthinkable may be going on, such as a nonlocal, collective aspect of consciousness that links distant individuals. Among them is Dr Robert S. Bobrow, a courageous clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at New York's Stony Brook University. In discussing the spread of obesity in his article "Evidence for a Communal Consciousness" in Explore in 2011, he says, "Frankly, obesity that develops from social connection, without face-to-face interaction, suggests emotional telepathy."30
If these experiments don't take your breath away, they should. They suggest that human isolation is a myth, and that human consciousness can manifest in the world beyond the brain. We are linked, united, entangled.
Almost forgotten amid this flurry of research are hundreds of case reports, such as the experience of the aforementioned nurse, which have been accumulating for more than a century. In them, individuals experience similar sensations or actual physical changes, even though they may be separated by great distances. Berthold E. Schwarz, an American neuropsychiatrist, documented many of these instances. In the 1960s he coined the term telesomatic to describe these events, from Greek words meaning "distant body."31 The term is apt, because these events suggest that a shared mind is bridging two bodies. Most cases go unreported, however, because there is no accepted explanatory mechanism for them, and because of the social stigma that can result from discussing them publicly.
A typical example was described by the English social critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). It involved Arthur Severn, a famous landscape painter who was married to Ruskin's cousin Joan. Severn awoke early one morning and went to a nearby lake for a sail while Joan remained in bed. She was suddenly awakened by the sensation of a severe, painful blow to the mouth, of no apparent cause. Shortly thereafter her husband Arthur returned, holding a cloth to his bleeding mouth. He reported that the wind had freshened abruptly and caused the boom to hit him in the mouth, almost knocking him from the boat, at the estimated time his wife felt the blow.32
A similar instance was reported in 2002 by mathematician-statistician Douglas Stokes. When he was teaching at the University of Michigan, one of his students reported that his father was knocked off a bench one day by an "invisible blow to the jaw." Five minutes later his dad received a call from a local gymnasium where his wife was exercising, informing him that she had broken her jaw on a piece of fitness equipment.
Another example that also involved the Severn clan was more unfortunate. One day, while Joan Severn was sitting quietly with her mother and aunt, the mother suddenly screamed, collapsed back onto the sofa, covered her ears with both hands, and exclaimed, "Oh, there's water rushing fast into my ears, and I'm sure either my brother, or son James, must be drowning, or both of them." Then, Joan looked out the window and saw people hurrying toward the nearby bathing place. Shortly thereafter her uncle came to the house, looking pale and distressed, and reported that James had indeed drowned.33
David Lorimer, a shrewd analyst of consciousness and a leader of the Scientific and Medical Network, an international organization based in the United Kingdom, has collected many telesomatic cases in his very wise book Whole in One.34 Lorimer is struck by the fact that these events occur mainly between people who are emotionally close. He makes a strong case for what he calls "empathic resonance," which he believes links individuals across space and time.
The late psychiatrist lan Stevenson (1918-2007), of the University of Virginia, investigated scores of instances in which distant individuals experience similar physical symptoms. Most involve parents and children, spouses, siblings, twins, lovers, and very close friends.35 Again, the common thread is the emotional closeness and empathy experienced by the separated persons.
In a typical example reported by Stevenson, a mother was writing a letter to her daughter, who had recently gone away to college. For no obvious reason her right hand began to burn so severely she had to put down her pen. She received a phone call less than an hour later informing her that her daughter's right hand had been severely burned by acid in a laboratory accident at the same time that she, the mother, had felt the burning pain.36
In a case reported by researcher Louisa E. Rhine, a woman suddenly doubled over, clutching her chest in severe pain, saying, "Something has happened to Nell, she has been hurt." Two hours later the sheriff arrived to inform her that her daughter Nell had been involved in an auto accident, and that a piece of the steering wheel had penetrated her chest.37
But if you stop clinging to coincidence and try explaining this trumpery affair, you might shatter one kind of world. --J. B. Priestley, Man & Time 38
Guy Lyon Playfair is one of the best-known consciousness researchers in Great Britain and is the author of the important book Twin Telepathy.39 He has collected a variety of documented telesomatic cases involving twins and nontwin siblings.
One case involved the identical twins Ross and Norris McWhirter, who were well known in Britain as co-editors of the Guinness Book of Records. On November 27, 1975, Ross was fatally shot in the head and chest by two gunmen on the doorstep of his north London home. According to an individual who was with his twin brother Norris, Norris reacted in a dramatic way at the time of the shooting, almost as if he had been shot by an invisible bullet.40
Skeptics invariably dismiss cases such as these as coincidence, but many are hard to squeeze into this category. An example reported by Playfair concerns four year old identical twins Silvia and Marta Landa, who lived in the village of Murillo de Río Leza in northern Spain. The Landa twins became celebrities in 1976 after being featured in the local newspaper after a bizarre event. Marta had burned her hand on a hot clothes iron. As a large red blister was forming, an identical one developed on the hand of Silvia, who was away visiting her grandparents at the time. Silvia was taken to the doctor, unaware of what had happened to her sister Marta. When the two little girls were united, their parents saw that the blisters were the same size and on the same part of the hand.
It wasn't the first time this sort of thing had happened. If one twin had an accident, the other twin seemed to know about it, even though they were nowhere near each other. Once, when they arrived home in their car, Marta hopped out and ran inside the house, but suddenly complained that she could not move her foot. While this was happening, Silvia had got tangled up with the seat belt and her foot was stuck in it. On another occasion when one of them had misbehaved and was given a smack, the other one, out of sight, immediately burst into tears.
Members of the Madrid office of the Spanish Parapsychological Society got wind of the burned-hand incident and decided to investigate. Their team of nine psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians descended on the Landa house, with the full cooperation and approval of the twins' parents. They had hardly arrived when a typical trade-off incident happened to the little twins. When Marta accidentally banged her head on something, it was her sister Silvia who began to cry. The researchers got to work with a series of tests disguised as fun games for the twins. This meant the little girls had no idea they were involved in an experiment.
While Marta stayed on the ground floor with her mother and some of the researchers, Silvia went with her father and the rest of the team to the second floor. Everything that happened on both floors was filmed and tape-recorded. One of the psychologists played a game with Marta, using a glove puppet. Silvia was given an identical puppet, but no game was played. Downstairs, Marta grabbed the puppet and threw it at the investigator. Upstairs, at the same time, Silvia did the same.
One of the team's physicians next shined a bright light into Marta's left eye, as part of a simple physical check-up. When she did this four times, Silvia began to blink rapidly as if trying to avoid a bright light. Then, the doctor did a knee jerk reflex test by tapping her left knee tendon three times. At the same time, Silvia began to jerk her leg so dramatically that her father, unaware the test was going on downstairs on Marta, had to hold it still. Then, Marta was given some very aromatic perfume to smell. As she did so, Silvia shook her head and put her hand over her nose. Next, still in different rooms, the twins were given seven colored disks and were asked to arrange them in any order they liked. They arranged them in exactly the same order.
There were other tests as well. The team rated all but one of them as "highly positive" or "positive."
The Landa tests confirmed what most researchers have found -- that children are more prone than adults to this sort of thing, and that results are more likely to be positive when experiments are done not in sterile, impersonal laboratories but in the natural habitat of the subjects and in a relaxed, supportive environment. This latter lesson often has been flagrantly ignored in consciousness research by experimenters who should know better. Researchers have had to learn repeatedly the importance of ecological validity -- the principle that what is being tested should be allowed to unfold as it does in real life.
Telesomatic events often are viewed as little more than cute coincidences or weird curiosities, like the simultaneous burn on the hands of the Landa twins. However, there are many instances in which telesomatic happenings are of life-and-death significance. These cases are important because they show that the telesomatic link has survival value, which is probably why it appears to be inherent in humans.
One such case reported to Playfair involved identical twin boys, Ricky and Damien, only three days old. Anna, their mother, would feed them during the night in her bed, propping herself up with pillows. On this particular occasion she had one twin, Ricky, in front of her, while her other son, Damien, lay on a pillow to her left. As she was changing Ricky's diaper, he suddenly began screaming. This was surprising, for even though only three days old, "he was a really good baby," Anna said, as was his brother. She could not figure out what was wrong, as he had been cleaned and fed. Then, still screaming, Ricky's body began to shake, as if he were having a convulsion. Anna reports that the thought suddenly popped into her head that "twins relay messages to each other." She looked down to check on Damien and, to her horror, saw that he wasn't there, but was face down in the pillows behind her. She immediately grabbed him and saw that he was blue in the face with his mouth clamped shut. Damien was suffocating. She and her older daughter began artificial respiration and called an ambulance. The terrifying event had a happy ending. Anna concluded, "Without a doubt, Ricky saved his brother's life. Had it not been for him screaming and shaking, I never would have looked for Damien until I had finished with Ricky, and by then it would have been too late."41
The theme of shared pain between twins and emotionally close siblings recurs in cases reported by Playfair. In one example, a five month old identical twin awakens as the clock strikes ten, and suddenly begins crying. After 15 minutes he stops, as if a switch was turned. At a hospital several miles away, his brother is having a painful injection. His mother notes the time as 10 pm. In a similar report, the mother of another pair of five month old identical twins reports that when one of them is having an inoculation he takes it calmly, but the other one "yells his head off."42
Adult identical twins have similar experiences. An example involved socialite Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (1904-1965) and her identical twin sister, Lady Thelma Morgan Furness (1904-1970). In Double Exposure: A Twin Autobiography, they relate that when Lady Furness was expecting her baby in Europe, Gloria was in New York City. Gloria was planning to travel to Europe to be with her sister in May when the baby was due. But in late March, when she was preparing to go out to lunch, Gloria developed such severe abdominal pains she had to cancel her engagements and go to bed. She said, "I remember saying... that if I didn't know such a thing was out of the question, I would think I was having a baby." Gloria managed to sleep for a while, and on awakening she felt normal-and saw on the bedside table a cable from Lord Furness announcing the premature birth of Thelma's son.43
Sometimes the pain that is shared is emotional and not physical, as in another case reported to Playfair. It involved an American academic while she was an undergraduate at Stony Brook University in New York. She awoke from a deep sleep at six am New York time and cried out, knowing without doubt that her twin sister in Arizona was in trouble. She told her roommate what had happened, and called her mother as well. Her mother informed her that at three am Arizona time a car bomb had exploded just outside her twin sister's apartment, shattering a window. Fortunately, her twin sister and her husband were unharmed. The time of the bomb blast in Arizona coincided with her terrified awakening in New York.
Although telesomatic exchanges are by no means limited to twins, they are undeniably frequent among them. As Playfair states, in twins we see "the telepathic signal at full volume, as it were, at which not only information is transmitted at a distance but so are emotions, physical sensations and even symptoms such as burns and bruises."44
Even so, he has found that only around 30% of identical twins have these experiences, but in those who do the phenomena can be mind-boggling.45 Emotional closeness is an essential factor in the twin connection. Also, having an extraverted, outgoing personality has been shown to facilitate the link. And, as we see in the above examples, what twins seem to communicate best is bad news -- depression, illness, accidents, or death.
Exceptions to the twin connection can be seen in physicians who emotionally and physically sense when their patients need their attention. A remarkable case is that of Larry Kincheloe, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Oklahoma City.46
After completing his training in obstetrics and gynecology, Kincheloe joined a very traditional medical group and practiced for about four years without any unusual events. Then, one Saturday afternoon he received a call from the hospital that a patient of his was in early labor. He gave routine orders, and since this was her first baby, he assumed that delivery would be hours away. While raking leaves, he experienced an overwhelming feeling that he should go to the hospital. He immediately called labor and delivery and was told by the nurse that everything was going fine; his patient was only five centimeters dilated, and delivery was not expected for several more hours.
Even with this reassurance, the feeling became stronger and Kincheloe began to feel an aching pain in the center of his chest. He described it as similar to the feeling one has when they are 16 years old and lose their first love -- an achingly sad, melancholy sense. The more he tried to ignore the sensation the stronger it grew, until it reached the point where he felt he was drowning. By this time he was desperate to get to the hospital. He jumped into his car and sped away. As he neared the hospital he began to feel better. When he walked onto the labor unit, he had an enormous sense of relief.
When he reached the nurses' desk, his patient's nurse was just walking out of the patient's labor room. When she asked why he was there, Kincheloe honestly admitted that he did not know, only that he felt he was needed and that his place was here. She gave him a strange look and told him that she had just checked the patient and that she was only seven centimeters dilated. At that moment a cry came from the labor room. Anyone who has ever worked in labor and delivery knows that there is a certain tone in a woman's cry when the baby is nearing delivery. He rushed to the patient's room just in time to deliver a healthy infant. Afterward, when the nurse asked how he had known to come to the hospital after being told that delivery was hours away, he had no answer.
After that day, Kincheloe started paying attention to these feelings. He's learned to trust them. Having experienced these intuitive feelings hundreds of times, he routinely acts on them. Usually by the time he gets a call from labor and delivery, he is already getting dressed or is in his car on the way to the hospital. He often answers the phone by saying, "I know. I am on my way," knowing that it is labor and delivery calling him to come in. This is now such a common occurrence among the labor and delivery staff that they tell the new nurses, "If you want Dr. Kincheloe, just think it and he will show up."
Recently he had the old feeing, called in, and talked to a new nurse who was taking care of a patient of his who was in active labor. He asked her how things were going and she reported that the patient was resting comfortably with an epidural and that she had a reassuring fetal heart rate pattern. He again asked her if she was sure that nothing was happening that required his attention. Exasperated, she said, "I told you I just checked her and everything is fine." In the background Kincheloe heard another nurse say, "Ask him if he is having chest pains." Confused, the new nurse asked him. He replied yes. He heard the new nurse relay his response to the older nurse, who said, "Since he's having chest pains you had better go check the patient again."
"Just a minute," the new nurse said to Kincheloe, as she put down the phone and went to check the patient. Then, he heard the hurried sound of her footsteps returning. She related that the baby was nearing delivery, and that he needed to hurry.
Dr Kincheloe's experiences show how physical sensations can function as an early-warning system alerting us that something important is about to happen. These telesomatic phenomena are like psychic cell phones uniting distant individuals. The wireless service provider is not Verizon or AT&T, however, but a collective dimension of consciousness that unites individuals at a distance.
Witches in the Waiting Room
Dr Kincheloe may seem unique, but it's more likely that there are a lot of physicians and other healthcare workers who share his views and simply aren't talking. In his fascinating book The Witch in the Waiting Room, Robert S. Bobrow, MD, mentioned previously, describes how he discovered that many of his patients, nurses, and colleagues privately believe in powers of the mind that are not officially recognized in medicine. Some are practicing Wiccans. They keep their beliefs to themselves because of the negative reactions these views might evoke if they were made public. Dr Bobrow says, "Who knew? ... I go to work as a physician every day, and I'm surrounded by witches. I just never knew it."47
Colleen Rae is a spiritually oriented counselor who, unlike the closet Wiccans and psychics surrounding Dr Bobrow, went public with her abilities. She considers herself a "reluctant psychic." Rae grew up with a psychic grandmother and was reared in a family that considered these phenomena perfectly normal. She eventually learned that she was an "empath," someone who has a profound ability to sense the feelings or thoughts of another person. In a typical experience, for several days Rae had felt excruciating pain in her neck and shoulders for no apparent reason. She could barely roll her neck or tip her head side to side. She wrote in her journal the following:
Yesterday, same thing. Again I was in the shower trying to loosen it up with the hot water. Then I called Mom to find out about her doctor's appointment. In the course of the conversation, she talked of her tension in her neck and shoulders that her doctor agreed is due... to this horrible anti-cancer drug she's taking. I asked her to describe her symptoms -- the first I'd heard of them from my ever-stoic mother. She described exactly what I'd been feeling. "Excruciating?" I asked. "Yes," she said.
On another occasion, Rae suddenly developed a toothache for no obvious reason. It suddenly stopped the instant her mother had her own bad tooth pulled.
"Being an empath can be hard on the body," says Rae in her book Tales of a Reluctant Psychic.48 "But I long ago accepted that without the ‘infection,' I wouldn't be able to do one of the more interesting parts of my psychospiritual counseling practice."
What is seen cannot be un-seen. --Folk saying
Many physicians want to unburden themselves of this secret part of their lives and go public with their experiences and beliefs. Bobrow cites a 1980 survey published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that asked psychiatry professors, residents in training, other medical faculty, and deans of medical schools the question: "Should psychic studies be included in psychiatric education?" More than half said yes. The authors of the survey concluded, "Our results indicate a high incidence of conviction among deans of medical schools and psychiatric educators that many psychic phenomena may be a reality, psychic powers are present in most or all of us, nonmedical factors play an important part in the healing process, and, above all, studies of psychic phenomena should be included in psychiatric education. ..."49
Many skeptics have done their best to deny and obfuscate these trends. One often hears from skeptics that only a tiny percentage of practicing physicians and medical educators believe in beyond-the-body happenings. These skeptics imply that physicians who believe these things are out of step with the scientific tradition and are trying to take medicine back to the Dark Ages. But as the aforementioned survey shows, belief in these matters is held not by a few renegades, but is extensive in both clinical and academic medicine. Another national survey in 2004 examined the beliefs of 1,100 U.S. physicians in various specialties.
The surveyors found that 74% believe that so-called miracles occurred in the past and that 73% believe they can occur today. (I suspect that for most physicians "miracle" does not mean a violation, suspension, or breach of natural law but an event that is not well understood. Most physicians would likely agree with St Augustine that so-called miracles do not contradict nature, but they contradict what we know about nature. This is my view as well.) Fifty-nine percent of the physicians said they pray for their patients as individuals, and 51% said they pray for them as a group.50 In a review of these trends, author Stephan A. Schwartz concluded, "[T]here is a growing understanding that ineffable considerations, most subsumed under the concept of nonlocal mind, hold considerable sway in the thinking of both the general population and the medical community."51
Scientists in general hold similar beliefs. A 1973 survey of readers of the British journal New Scientist asked them to state their feelings about extrasensory perception, or ESP. New Scientist defines its readers as being mainstream working scientists, or as science oriented. Of the 1,500 respondents, 67% considered ESP to be an established fact or at least a strong probability. Eighty-eight percent considered psychic research to be a legitimate area for scientific inquiry.52
In another survey of more than 1,100 college professors in the United States, 55% of natural scientists, 66% of social scientists (psychologists excluded), and 77% of academics in the arts, humanities, and education said they believed that ESP is either an established fact or a likely possibility.53
Therefore, the contention that belief in beyond-the-body phenomena is rare among paid-up physicians, scientists, and academics may be dismissed as nonsense. In general, this notion is perpetrated by skeptics who are woefully informed about the depth of research in this field, and oppose it for ideological reasons.54, 55, 56
Mold on a Shower Curtain?
The neuron-to-neuron, brain-to-brain, and person-to-person events we've examined are more than quirky, oddball happenings. They are communication channels between distant individuals, one of whom is often in need. They are reminders that beyond our apparent separateness there are filaments connecting us in ways that are not limited by space, time, or physical barriers. The fact that these linkages often involve emotional bonds suggests a more empathic, kinder side of existence than we have recently supposed.
Many great thinkers have valued the unbroken wholeness that exists between people. Plato, for example, in his Symposium, has Aristophanes saying, "This becoming one instead of two was the very expression of humanity's need. And the reason is that human nature was originally One and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love."57
The experience of oneness, mediated through empathy and love, is an antidote to the deadening effects of the unyielding materialism embraced by many current scientists. An example of this view is that of astrophysicist and author David Lindley: "We humans are just crumbs of organic matter clinging to the surface of one tiny rock. Cosmically, we are no more significant than mold on a shower curtain."58 Or as Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg famously said, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."59
These positions can be kept in place only by ignoring the abundance of empirical findings such as we've examined. They often involve the deliberate exclusion of crucial evidence, which is scientific malpractice. Moreover, these dismal views have been regularly disputed by some of the greatest scientists. Max Planck, for instance, the leading founder of quantum physics, stated, "I regard consciousness as fundamental. We cannot get behind consciousness."60 And the eminent physicist Gerald Feinberg said, "If such [nonlocal mental] phenomena indeed occur, no change in the fundamental equations of physics would be needed to describe them."61 In other words, modern physics does not prohibit the events we've examined, but it permits them.
If love does not show up in the equations of physics, and it doesn't, that is not the fault of love but a limitation of physics. Love nevertheless makes its presence known in scientifically demonstrable ways, as in experiments that demonstrate nonlocal manifestations of consciousness, as we've seen. This fact should be cause for celebration in a world worn weary by scientific materialism. It should be good news especially for anyone who likes to compare humans to mold on shower curtains.
Love is a gateway to nonlocal connectivity because love tempers the forces of isolation, separateness, and individuality. Although individuality is a valuable complement to connectedness and unity, when it is excessive it can lead to a hypertrophied ego and sense of self, obstructing the felt realization that we are united with one another and all things. As D. H. Lawrence trenchantly put it, "Hate is not the opposite of love, the opposite of love is individuality."62
This is not just pretty talk. Overcoming separateness results in effects that can be measured in the lab. In three decades of experimental research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory, Robert G. Jahn, the former dean of engineering at Princeton, and his colleagues have demonstrated that emotionally bonded couples are uniquely gifted in their mental ability to impart order to strings of random ones and zeros produced by random number generators. Moreover, pairs of emotionally close individuals can mentally exchange information remotely, even when separated at continental or global distances. Summing up how it happens, Jahn says, "[The] successful strategy... involves some blurring of identities between operator and machine, or between percipient and agent [receiver and sender]. And, of course, this is also the recipe for any form of love: the surrender of self-centered interests of the partners in favor of the pair."63 Put simply, love can change the state of the physical world.
The fact that nonlocal, distant communication has been demonstrated at many levels of complexity, from neurons to organs to whole persons, suggests we are dealing with an intrinsic, embedded principle of nature. This consistency across disparate domains is a highly valued feature in science. It suggests that we are on the right track and are not fooling ourselves.
Our connections are real, and they are life-affirming. As Albert Schweitzer put it, "Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being."64
Our connections are not optional; they are obligatory and intrinsic. This implies that we cannot secede from the web of life, even if we try. On this realization our future may depend.
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