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What IS a Great Question?

Why should we bother?

What makes it Great?

ets say a spaceship lands next to you on the coffee table

(does size matter?) and inside is The Universal Book of
Everything. And you get to ask one question. What is that
This may seem a little silly, but its worth the effort. Take a
minute and think. What would that question be? It can be anything. Go ahead and write it down in a journal.
Now lets say The Book is feeling a little underutilized these
days, and you get a bonus question. Think of something that
you are just plain curious about. It can be wondering if Elvis is
still alive, or where you left your car keys. Something that
simply tickles your fancy. Write that down, too.
And by now The Book is feeling a little depleted, and it got
to be The Universal Book of Everything by asking questions of
everyone and getting real answers. So, the question for you (the
answer to which will be added in The Book) is:

What is the One Thing you know for sure?

Great QuestionsThe Can Opener

of Consciousness
Aside from the few like Fred Alan Wolf (who we quoted on
the opening page), when do we ever get encouraged to ask questions? And yet, most of those grand discoveries and revelations


that our society cherishes came from asking questions. Those

things, those answers, that we study in school came from questions. Questions are the precursor, or first cause, in every branch
of human knowledge. The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi told
his students the path to Enlightenment was summed up in:
Who am I? The physicist Niels Bohr asked, How can an electron move from A to B, and never go in between?
These questions open us up to what we previously didnt
know. And theyre really the only way to get thereto the other
side of the unknown.
Why ask a Great Question? Asking a Great Question is an
invitation to an adventure, a journey of discovery. Its thrilling
to set out on a new adventure; theres the bliss of freedom, the
freedom to explore new territory.
So why dont we ask these questions? Because asking questions opens the door to chaos, to the unknown and unpredictable. The minute you ask a question you truly dont know
the answer to, you open yourself up to a field of all possibilities. Are you willing to receive an answer you may not like or
agree with? What if it makes you uncomfortable, or carries you
outside the zone of safety and security youve built for yourself? What if the answer isnt what you want to hear!?
It doesnt take muscles; it takes bravery to ask a question.
Now lets consider what makes a question Great. A Great
Question doesnt have to come from a philosophy book, or be
about Lifes Big Issues. A Great Question for you might be,
What would happen if I decided to go back to college and get
a degree in a new field? or Should I listen to that voice that
keeps telling me to go to California or China? or Is it possible
to discover what is inside a neutrino? Asking any of these
questions and thousands of others could change the direction
of your life. Thats what a Great Question is: one that can change
the direction of your life.
So, once again, why dont we ask them? Most people would
rather stay in the safety of the known than go looking for
trouble. Even if they crash right into a question, more than


Where do we come from?

What should we do?
And where are we going?
Miceal Ledwith

The difference between me

at five and me now is that at
five I didnt have much invested
emotionally in the Universe
being a certain way. Being
wrong never was a concern.
It was all learning. Now I keep
reminding myself: In science
there is no such thing as a failed
experiment. Learning that what
I was testing simply does not
work is actually a success.

When I watch my daughter

playing with whatever toy or
gadget she has at the moment,
I can see the pure joy in her face
as shes trying to figure it out.
She doesnt get discouraged;
she just keeps on trying until
she gets what she wants. Once
she gets it, its on to the next
challenge, the next question.
I watched her this morning
trying to figure out how to open
the latch on the cupboard.
It took a while, but she kept at it
until she worked it out. Once she
got the latch, the next joy was:
Lets open the door! As the door
opened, her face lit up with
excitement. Look whats inside!
Whats that? There on the shelf?
It was a true journey of discovery, full of joy at every step.
What I asked myself, and what
I would ask you, is: Whats your
latch? What do you desire
to know today?

likely they will run away from it, stick their head in the sand or
quickly get busy doing something else.
For most of us, it takes a serious crisis to bring on the Great
Questions: a life-threatening illness, the death of someone
close, failure of a business or a marriage, a repeated, even
addictive behavior pattern you just cant seem to shake, or
loneliness that seems unendurable for one more day. At times
like those, Great Questions come boiling up from the depths of
our being like hot lava. These questions are not intellectual
exercises, but cries of the soul. Why me? Why him? What have
I done wrong? After this, is life truly worth living? How could
God allow this to happen?
If we could muster up the same kind of passion to ask ourselves a Great Question about our lives now, when there is no
immediate crisis, who knows what could happen?
As Dr. Wolf said, asking a Great Question can open up new
ways of being in the world. It can be a catalyst for transformation. Growing. Outgrowing. Moving on.

The Joy of Questions

Remember when you were five years old and you kept asking, Why? Your parents may have thought, after a while, that
you were doing it simply to drive them crazy, but you really
wanted to know! What happened to that five-year-old?
Can you remember the five-year-old who was you? Can
you feel what it was like? This is important, because when you
were five, you loved being in the mystery. You loved wanting
to figure things out. You loved the journey. Each day was filled
with new discoveries and new questions.
So what is the difference between then and now?
Good question!
The fun and joy of life are in the journey. In our culture,
weve been conditioned to look at not knowing as something
unacceptable and bad; its some kind of failure. In order to pass


the test, we have to know the answers. But even when it comes
to factual knowledge about concrete things, what science
doesnt know far exceeds what it does. Many of the greatest scientists have looked into the mystery of the universe and of life
on our planet, and have frankly said, We know very little.
Mostly we have a lot of questions. This is certainly true of the
outstanding thinkers we interviewed. In the words of author
Terence McKenna, As the bonfires of knowledge grow brighter,
the more the darkness is revealed to our startled eyes.
Its even more difficult to come up with a clear-cut answer to
What is the meaning and purpose of my life? The answer to
Great Questions like this can only emerge from the journey of
living. And we can only arrive at it by the road of not knowing
or maybe we should say, not-yet-knowing. If we always think
we know the answer, how will we grow? What will we ever be
open to learn?
A university professor visited Zen master Nan-in to
inquire about Zen. But instead of listening to the master,
the scholar kept going on and on about his own ideas.
After listening for some time, Nan-in served tea. He
poured his visitors cup full, and then kept on pouring. The
tea flowed over the sides of the cup, filled the saucer,
spilled onto the mans pants and onto the floor.
Dont you see that the cup is full? the professor
exploded. You cant get any more in!

I have found that I find a

particular excitement in
suddenly realizing I dont
know the answer to something.
Its like coming to the edge
of a cliff in my mind.
In this space of nothing or
not knowing, I get this intense
feeling of anticipation. The
reason I get excited is because
Ive come to the edge of what I
know, and I realize that shortly
an understanding will arrive in
my head that will be staggering
and will not have existed in me
the moment before.
It will be this huge ah-ha.
I learned recently that an ah-ha
stimulates the pleasure center
of the brain . . . Evidently Im
addicted to this feeling.

Just so, replied Nan-in calmly. And like this cup, you
are full of your own ideas and opinions. How can I show
you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

Emptying the cup means making room for Great Questions.

It means being open, reconditioning ourselves so that we can
accept, for the time being, not knowing. Out of that a greater
knowing will dawn.



Every age, every generation

has its built-in assumptions
that the world is flat, that the
world is round. There are

A little while ago my sixteen-year-old niece sent me a

long email. The gist of it was, Life sucks. I see my dad
coming home from work every day totally bummed out.
I dont want to get trapped in the rat race, but I dont see
any hope of avoiding it. Is this what life is about? Whats
the point? I might as well just shoot myself and die.
Christina, I wrote back, you might not think this is
a great response, but Im proud of you. I cant tell you
that you are going to solve your dilemma and find The
Answer. I know you want answersbut sometimes life
doesnt provide them right away. But you are asking the
right questions, and that is important.

hundreds of hidden assumptions,


things we take for granted that

may or may not be true. In the
vast majority of cases, these
conceptions about reality
which belong to the prevailing
paradigm or worldview
arent accurate. So if historys
any guide, much that we take for
granted about the world today
simply isnt true.
John Hagelin, Ph.D.

Youre in Distinguished Company

People have been asking Great Questions for thousands of
years. There have always been men and women who gazed at
the stars and wondered at the vast mystery of it all, or who
looked at the way people around them were living and thought,
Isnt there more to life than this?
The ancient Greek philosophers pondered and discussed the
Great Questions. Some, like Socrates and Plato, asked, What is
Beauty? What is Goodness? What is Justice? What is the best
way to govern a society? What people are fit to be rulers?
Religious teachers, mystics and spiritual masters like
Buddha, Lao Tse, Jesus, Muhammad, St. Francis, Meister
Eckhardt, Apollonius of Tyana and many more, in all the
worlds traditions, have asked Great Questions.
People with scientific minds have always asked questions.
How does it work? Whats inside? Are things really the way they
seem? Where does the universe come from? Is the Earth the


center of the solar system? Are there laws and patterns that
underlie what happens in daily life? Whats the connection
between my body and my mind?
For the great scientists of history, these questions elicit a passion to understand that goes way beyond curiosity. Theyre not
just curiousthey need to know!
When Albert Einstein was a boy, he asked himself: What
happens if Im riding my bicycle at the speed of light and I
switch on my bike lightwill it come on? He nearly drove
himself crazy asking himself that for ten years, but out of that
resolute pursuit came the relativity theory. This is a great
example of asking a question and hanging with it for years, in
the unknown, until he came up with a completely different
view of reality.

You can never come

to a conclusion about life.
Life is an eternal thing just as
we are an eternal thing.
We have to start searching for

Paradigm Busting
One of the great things about science is its assumption that
what it thinks it knows today will probably be proven wrong
tomorrow. The theories of yesterday have served as platforms
to climb higher, as Sir Isaac Newton meant when he said, If I
have been privileged to see farther than others, its because I
stood on the shoulders of giants.
Its only by asking questions, challenging the assumptions
and the truths taken for granted at any given time, that science progresses. What if that turned out to be true about our
personal lives, our individual growth and progress?
Guess what? It is true. When you break free of your assumptions about yourself, you will grow more than you ever thought


more meaning of what we are.

Well, the meaning of what
we are has yet to be
discovered by us.

Bring It on Home
I stand in front of my mirror
every morning and try to ask
myself a Great Question.
What is it that I dont know,
that I want to know?
This morning it was,
I want to know if Im truly
capable of feeling
unconditional love.
This is not just an abstract
idea for me. Unconditional love
is on my agendaits how
I want to be, at least for my
husband and my daughter
but if Im honest with myself,
Im not sure Ive ever
truly felt it.

Pondering the Great Questions is a wonderful way to spend

quality time with your mind. When was the last time you
took your mind on a wild ride of mystery? Tried to get to the
other side of Infinity?
Asking questions also has enormous practical value. Its the
gateway to change.
For instance: Ever ask yourself, as Joe Dispenza asks, Why
do we keep recreating the same reality? Why do we keep having
the same relationships? Why do we keep getting the same jobs
over and over again? In this infinite sea of potentials that exist
around us, how come we keep recreating the same realities?
Or as Einstein put it, one of the definitions of insanity is to
do the same things over and over and expect a different result.
Thats where asking Great Questions comes in. They are
Great because they open us up to a greater reality, a greater vista
and greater options. And they come in the form of Questions
because they come from the other side of the Known. And to
get there is to change.


Ponder These for a While . . .

A note about Ponder These: Some of these questions many of us can
answer easily. But the trick is to not just look at the obvious, but to look
at the unobviousthe subconsciousness. The place we dont look very
often, if ever. When you consider the questions here, remember to look
all the way inside yourself. Think about things that you may have
picked up when you were young. Like fear, for instance: Does a fear of
dogs permeate throughout your consciousness in other ways? Take some
time. Theres no one at the back of the room with a stopwatch!
Remember your first three questions from the beginning of the
chapter? What are they now?
A spaceship lands next to you, and inside is The Universal Book of
Everything. You get a bonus question, a just-for-fun question. What
is it?
And the bonus bonus: Are we back where we started? Or have we
moved on?
Remind yourself of these questions as you read this book. They are
bound to evolve as you evolve. Thats the fun part! Keep a journal so
you can watch your own evolution and remember.
All great things are achieved in a light heart!

Spirit and science are humanitys two grand

approaches to The Truth. Both are searching for
the truth about us and our universe; both
seeking answers to the Great Questions.
They are two sides of the same coin.

United in Their Source

In the mystic sense of

the creation around us, in the
expression of art, in a yearning
toward God, the soul grows
upward and finds the fulfillment
of something implanted in its
nature. . . . The pursuit of science
[also] springs from a striving
which the mind is impelled to
follow, a questioning that
will not be suppressed.
Whether in the intellectual
pursuits of science or in the
mystical pursuits of the spirit,
the light beckons ahead,
and the purpose surging in
our nature responds.
Sir Arthur Eddington,
astrophysicist, in The Nature
of the Physical World


ur earliest known civilization, ancient Sumer (3800

B.C.E.), saw the pursuit of understanding the world
around us and the world of the spiritual as the same
thing. There was a god of astrology, a god of horticulture and a
god of irrigation. The temple priests were the scribes and technologists investigating these fields of knowledge.
The Sumerians knew about the 26,000-year cycle, the precession of the equinoxes, the mutating of plants to produce fruits
and vegetables, and an irrigation system that fed the entire fertile crescent (Tigris/Euphrates River basin).
Forward 3,000 years to ancient Greece. Philosophers were
asking Great Questions like, Why are we here? What should we
do with our lives? They also developed the theory of the atom,
studied celestial movements and sought universal principles of
ethical behavior. For thousands of years, the only study of the
heavens was astrology. From astrology came modern-day
astronomy. From astronomy came mathematics and physics.
Alchemy, the search for transmutation and immortality,
spawned the science of chemistry, which later specialized into
particle physics and molecular biology. Today the search for
immortality is carried on by the DNA biochemists.


A World Alive
The world that people believed in before the Scientific
Revolution was alive. In China, people saw the world as a
dynamic interplay of energetic forces that are constantly in
flux. Nothing is fixed and static; everything is flowing, changing or forever being born.
People in the West believed that the world at large expressed
the will and intelligence of a Divine Creator. Its component
parts were linked in a Great Chain of Being, stretching from
God through angels to man, animals, plants and minerals, all of
which had their proper place in a living whole. Nothing stood
alone; every part was related to every other part.
Native peoples on every continent lived in harmonious relationship with their surroundingsthe animals and plants, the
sun and rain, the living Earth. They often expressed this perception by finding spirits in mountains, streams and groves
of trees, and based their religion and their science on learning
to live in a way that pleased those spirits of the Earth and sky.
The goal of science in all these cultures was to gain knowledge in order to harmonize human life with the great forces of
the natural world and the transcendent powers that all cultures
sensed behind the physical world. People wanted to know how
nature works, not in order to control and dominate it, but to
live in accord with its ebb and flow. As the physicist and
philosopher Fritjof Capra wrote in The Turning Point, From
the time of the ancients the goals of science had been wisdom,
understanding the natural order and living in harmony with it.
Science was pursued for the glory of God, or, as the Chinese
put it, to follow the natural order and flow in the current of
the Tao.
All this changed radically, starting in the middle of the 16th


In the greatest cultures

of the ancient world there was
a stairway between the human
and the divine. The Earth and
the cosmos were addressed as
thou, not it. People felt they
participated in a great cosmic
mystery of which they were a
part. People experienced the divine
as imminent in the material
world. Nature and the cosmos
were ensouled with divine
presence. Ceremonies like those
performed at Stonehenge . . .
connected Earth with heaven
and strengthened the sense
of participation in
a divine reality.
Anne Baring


Challenging the Power of the Church

As a young boy I pondered

God a lot. I was told that God
was beyond me and was a mystery that could never be
fathomed. Being both
arrogant and inquisitive, I
decided that they were wrong.
There had to be a way, I thought.
When I discovered science in my
teens, I became so excited.
Even though I knew science was
studying the aftereffects of a
higher order, I felt that the
things I learned came closer to
the wonder of life than many of
the dry moments I experienced
as a child in church. When I
found out about quantum
mechanics, I was in heaven!
(Pardon the pun.) Here was a
language that I thought might
start to explain the divine, and
the idea of the observer might
suggest that the divine is us.
Science and spirit are not so
different. They are different
disciplines trying to
understand the same thing.


In medieval Europe, the Church held a position of supreme

power. Kingmaker, landowner and purveyor of the truth, the
Church took it upon itself to be the one knower of everything.
Its dogma was law, and its power was absolute. Not only were
they legislating the way the spiritual world worked, in terms of
heaven, hell and purgatory, they were also telling the physical
Universe how to behave.
In 1543, Nicolas Copernicus had the audacity to challenge
the Church and the Bible. He published a book suggesting that
the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our universe. The
Church did the most logical thing when confronted with the
notion that it might be wrongit forbade its followers from
reading it. It placed his work on its Index of forbidden books
and, remarkably, did not remove it until 1835!
Luckily for Copernicus, he died of natural causes before the
Church could get to him. Two scientists who supported his
work did not get off so easily. Giordano Bruno confirmed
Copernicus calculations, and speculated that our sun and its
planets might be just one of many such systems in an endless
universe. For this terrible blasphemy, Bruno was brought before
the Inquisition (which is still a department in the Church),
condemned as a heretic and burned to death.
Galileo Galilei also supported Copernicus model. He, too,
was called before the Inquisition, but because he was a personal
friend of the pope, he was merely locked under house arrest
(at the age of seventy) until his death. Its good to have friends
in high places.
Galileo is often called the father of modern science
because he was the first to base his work on the two pillars that
have characterized the scientific enterprise ever since: empirical observation and the use of mathematics.
Because of Galileos discoveries in the early 1600s, knowledge was no longer the property of the priesthood. Its validity
would not be based on ancient authorities or ecclesiastical


hierarchies. Rather, knowledge was to be gained through open

inquiry and observation, and validated by agreed-upon principles, which soon became known as the scientific method.
The scientists did not pick battles with the Church. They
knew it was hopeless and dangerous. Rather than attempt to
formulate mathematical laws about God, the soul or even
human nature and society, they restricted their activities to
probing the mysteries of matter.
For its part, the Church did everything within its power to
shut them down, to prevent the spread of ideas that might
threaten its authority. But what the Church dreaded is precisely
what happened. As the scientists persevered in the adventure
of discovery, sent back dispatches from the frontiers of the
known and used the growing body of knowledge to create
ever-more-powerful technologies, the charm of the scientific
enterprise drew increasing support.

The riff between science

and spirit affects us today
because the scientists who are
involved in this sort of
debate know very little about
the true teachings of spirit.
They simply take the characters

Descartes Divides Mind from Body,

Humanity from Nature

that they find retailed from

The 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician,

Ren Descartes, widened the gap between science and spirit.
There is nothing included in the concept of body that belongs
to the mind, Descartes said, and nothing in that of mind that
belongs to the body.
And thus the axe fell. The same coin (reality) was split down
the middle. If spirit and science were having a divorce,
Descartes was the lawyer who made it palatable.
Although Descartes believed that both mind and matter
were created by God, he viewed them as completely different
and separate. The human mind was a center of intelligence and
reason, designed to analyze and understand. The proper
domain of science was the material universenaturewhich
he saw as a machine that operated according to laws that could
be formulated mathematically. To Descartes, a great lover of

scientific spirit when in fact


every pulpit throughout the

land and take this as a
its only a version of the
science of the spirit.
And, unfortunately,
the churchmen dont know their
science either, so the two sides
are actually firing at
cross-targets. These are simply
two complimentary ways of
looking at reality.
Miceal Ledwith


I spent most of my life

with my head in the sand.
Waking up preoccupied with
what shoes I was going to wear
was my safety net. I could never
reconcile the notion of a guy up
in heaven judging me, and I
never could buy wholeheartedly
the notion that I came from
an ape. It always seemed to me
there must be something else.
But it was too big for little me
to consider. So for a long time
I left it to the smarter people.
Now I realize that unless I wake
up and become a participant in
this dialogue, science and
religion will continue down
their roads of elitism, dogma
and power mongering. I think
they need a good relationship

clocks and mechanical toys, all things in nature, not only inanimate objects like planets and mountains, shared this mechanical nature. All the operations of the body, too, could be
explained in terms of the mechanical model. He wrote, I consider the human body as a machine. The separation of mind
from body that Descartes made into a fundamental rule of science has caused endless problems, as we will see.

Francis Bacon and the Domination of Nature

Francis Bacon, a British philosopher/scientist, was also very
instrumental in establishing the scientific method, which we
can diagram like this:
Hypothesis research and experimentation draw general
conclusions test those conclusions by further research
Of course, this method has resulted in tremendous advances
for humanity, from the pure delight of greater understanding
of nature to improvements in health, engineering, agriculture,
etc., to the first baby steps of space exploration. But thats only
half of the story.
As Fritjof Capra has pointed out, Bacon viewed the scientific
enterprise in terms that were often outright vicious. Nature
had to be hounded in her wanderings, bound into service,
and made a slave. The job of the scientist was to torture
natures secrets from her. Unfortunately, this attitude that
sought to extract knowledge in order to control and dominate
nature (described as a her) has become a guiding principle of
Western science. Bacon summed it up in a phrase we all learned
in school: Knowledge is Power.

Newtons Classical Model

The person we most often closely associate with the formulation of the scientific worldview is Sir Isaac Newton, and the


mechanistic model of the world is often referred to as Newtonian

physics or the Newtonian model. These terms are justifiable,
as Newton took giant steps beyond his predecessors, synthesized
their ideas and methods, and advanced them greatly. The conclusions he came to, and the mathematical proofs he provided, were
so powerful that for nearly 300 years scientists the world over
were convinced that they described precisely how nature works.
Newton, like Descartes, saw the world as a machine, operating in three-dimensional space, with events (like the motions of
the stars or the falling of apples) taking place in time. Matter
was solid, with tiny particles at its core; these particles, as well
as giant objects like planets, moved according to laws of nature,
such as the force of gravity, which could be described with such
mathematical precision that if we knew the initial conditions of
any object, such as the whereabouts of a planet and the speed
and pattern of its orbit, we could predict its future with
absolute certainty. Newtons linking together of two such disparate events, the falling of an apple and the motion of a
planet, was utterly revolutionary. The linking was mediated by
a force, in this case, gravity.
The mechanistic approach was soon applied to all the sciences: astronomy, chemistry, biology, and so on. With few variations (such as a more sophisticated view of the atomic level of
reality), its the world we all were brought up to believe in.

In the seventeenth century we

came out of a period of time where
we saw the universe as a living,
vibrant entity, to the view of the
world as a machine. Descartes
and Newton solidified that
concept, by using science and
mathematics to describe a
nonliving world of inanimate
objects. They made some very
beautiful calculations and
enhanced our understanding
of nonliving systems. Descartes
looked at the world as a machine.
He was very interested in clocks.
The problem is, he and the other
early scientists applied the model

Newton and Religion

Consider this: As revolutionary as Newton and his colleagues
were in their work, when it came to religion they did not question the dominant worldview of their age. They were immersed
in it. Although they were responsible for initiating a radical
new paradigm that would challenge and overturn understandings that had endured for centuries, they lived their personal
lives very much in the midst of the medieval world into which
they were born.


of a clock or a windup toy soldier

to living systems. The idea was
that if we understood the parts,
the different components of the
system well enough, we would
understand how the whole system
works. That may be true of
a clock, but the problem is,
were not a machine at all, or
a clock or a toy soldier.
Daniel Monti, M.D.


Philosophy is written in
this grand bookthe universe
which stands continuously open
to our gaze. But the book cannot
be understood unless one first
learns to comprehend the
language and interpret the
characters in which it is written.
It is written in the language
of mathematics, and its
characters are triangles, circles
and other geometrical figures.
Without these one is wandering
about in a dark labyrinth.
Galileo Galilei

Like other people, they believed that God was the master
architect and builder of the world. Newton wrote in his major
scientific work, Principia Mathematica,
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and
comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. . . . This Being
governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord
over all. . . . He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and
omniscient. . . . He governs all things and knows all things
that are or can be. . . .
Why there is one body in our system qualified to give
light and heat to all the rest, I know no reason but because
the Author of the system thought it convenient.

As if to prepare the ages to come against the materialistic philosophy that would dominate Western thought in the name of
Newtonian mechanics, Sir Isaac wrote, Atheism is so senseless
and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.

A Bitter Divorce
It was only later generations of scientists, focused entirely on
the world machine, who found they had no need for God or
spirituality. Set free of the constraints of religious dogma, the
scientists reacted with a vengeance, proclaiming everything
unseen and nonmeasurable to be fantasy and delusion. Many
became as dogmatic as the Church authorities, declaring with
self-righteous certainty that we are strictly little machines running around in a predictable machine universe governed by
immutable laws.
The followers of Darwin provided the final stroke in the
materialist triumph. Not only is there no God, and thus no
creative intelligence guiding the unfolding of intergalactic life,
but we ourselves, once at the center of the world, are nothing


but random mutations, carriers of DNAs relentless quest for

more, in a meaningless universe.

Hope for Reconciliation?

The separation of mind and body that Descartes made into
a fundamental rule of science, and which scientific discovery
believed for hundreds of years, has caused endless problems. By
viewing the world outside our minds as nothing but lifeless
matter, operating according to predictable, mechanical laws
and devoid of any spiritual or animate quality, it divided us
from the living nature that sustains us. And it provided humanity with a perfect excuse to exploit all natural resources for
our own selfish and immediate purposes, with no concern for
other living beings or for the future of the planet.
And the planet suffered. Raped of resources and stripped of
purity, our polluted home began to spin toward the brink of
As science dug even deeper into its dead universe, it stumbled
upon, and unlocked, a mystery. In the early years of the 20th
century, the stranglehold of materialism was being cracked
open by scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner
Heisenberg, Erwin Schrdinger and other founders of quantum
theory, who told the world: Probe deeply enough into matter,
and it disappears and dissolves into unfathomable energy. If we
follow Galileo and describe it mathematically, it turns out it is
not a material universe at all! The physical universe is essentially
non-physical, and may arise from a field that is even more
subtle than energy itself, a field that looks more like information, intelligence or consciousness than like matter.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

At this late date, the coin remains split, with religion on one
side and science on the other. Why? Not because reality is split,


If science and spirit are

investigating the nature of
unlimited realityand, obviously, the more unlimited it is,
the closer to realitythen they
ought to eventually cross paths.
The oldest known scriptures, the
Vedas, talk about the physical
world as illusion, maya.
Quantum physics says reality
is not the way we see it; rather,
it is at best mostly empty,
but really more like waves of
insubstantial no-thing.
The Tibetan Buddhists talk
about everything as interdependent origination. In physics
there is entanglement, which
says all particles are connected,
and have been since the big bang
(where they got entangled in the
first place). And more poetically
we have in Zen their famous
koan: What is the sound of one
hand clapping? which is echoed
by the physics question: How
can a particle be in two places at
Professionals on both sides
of the fence have dug into their
respective disciplines, yet the
history of human progress
shows that evolution comes
about by including wider and
wider areas of study and
integrating them.
What is the sound of two
adversaries kissing?


the authoritative
point of view, tenet or
opinion held by a church
regarding faith
or morals.

but because the adherents of their worldview are people.

Remember why people dont ask Great Questions? Because the
answer they get may not be what they want it to be.
What if the mind and matter are not split? What if there are
observable feedback loops between the two? Its the 21st century, yet mainstream science still refuses to look at this.
Dr. Dean Radin, head scientist at the Institute of Noetic
Sciences, has been pursuing the investigation of psychic phenomena with strict adherence to the scientific method. Even
so, he still meets resistance within the mainstream scientific
As Dr. Radin says,
They [mainstream scientists] have personal, private
beliefs that have developed because of their experience,
but they dont talk about it in public because in public, at
least within the academic world, youre not supposed to
talk about it. And this is one of the few areas in academia
where this taboo is not only strong, but it has persisted for
at least a century. I know many, many academic colleagues
. . . distinguished people in their fieldsin psychology,
cognitive neuroscience, basic neurosciences, physics . . .
who privately are very, very interested in . . . psychic phenomenon. Some of them are getting successful results in
their experiments. Well, why arent we hearing about it?
Because the culture in the academic world says you cannot talk about it. So were living in the parable of the
emperors new clothes. I mean, even at this point the taboo
is so strong youre not even supposed to talk about the
taboo. Its like a highly secret government project where
the fact of the existence of the project is secret. Well, the
taboo is secret; no ones supposed to talk about it. Once
the taboo is addressed, thats the first stage in making it dissolve, and at that point, you will find an enormous amount
of interest in studying these things within mainstream



What Questions do YOU Want Answered?

Does prayer promote healing? Are you able to affect physical
reality with your mind? Can you perceive things outside of
space/time? Can a being walk on water? Does the Higgs Particle
Theoretical particle physics predicts the existence of the
Higgs Particlethe particle that gives mass to other particles.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to build more
powerful accelerators to find it. And yet we think that most of
the citizens of planet Earth would rather know the first four
Certainly answering those first four questions would have a
massive (no pun) impact on how we see ourselves and the
world. Much more so than finding yet another particle. But the
established world of science does not want to look at something that is thought to be outside of their domain. Funny,
because thats where the breakthroughs come from.
So, who now hijacked the search for truth?
Two sides of the same coin.
First the Church, and now the new priesthoodthe



The Higgs Particle is a

theoretically predicted particle
that gives all other particles in
the universe mass. For decades
scientists have been building
bigger particle accelerators to find
it because it is a heavy (massive)
particle. They cant find the
Higgs because it has
too much mass, and it gives
particles mass. So what gives
the Higgs Particle mass then?
Does this seem a little odd to anyone else out there? Maybe they
should be looking for an
information particle, one
that in-forms particles as to their
state (mass, charge, spin . . .)


Ponder These for a While . . .

Have you hijacked your own search for the truth?
What does spirituality mean to you?
What is the difference, if any, between a dogma and a natural law?
What are the dogmas in your own life?
How do they govern how you perceive yourself and your reality?
Do you use the scientific method in your own life?
How has the split of science and religion affected your life?
What is the difference between science and religion?
How has dualism affected the way you perceive yourself and reality?
Do you live your life as separate from nature and everyone else, or
do you feel truly connected?
How often do you feel like a lizard? Can you grow a tail?

A paradigm is like a theory, but a little different.

A theory is an idea that sets out to explain
how something works, like Darwins theory
of evolution. It is meant to be tested, proved or
disproved, supported or challenged by
experiment and reflection. A paradigm, on the
other hand, is a set of implicit assumptions
that are not meant to be tested; in fact, they are
essentially unconscious. They are part of
our modus operandi as individuals,
as scientists, or as a society.

Ever make Christmas cookies

using a cookie cutter? No matter
what the ingredients, they all
come out of the oven looking
pretty much the same.

paradigm is never called into question because nobody

thinks about it. Its like having the proverbial rosecolored glasses on all the time; we see everything
through those glasses. Thats the reality we inhabit. All our perceptions come through that framework, and within that system
are all the things we take for granted. We never question
themor even become aware of themuntil we run into a
wall and the rose-colored glasses are shattered, and suddenly
the world looks different.

Paradigms and Belief Systems

Another way to understand a paradigm is as a belief system.
If you have ever tried to define what your belief system is, what
you value and believe, you know how hard it is. Maybe some of


the issues youve thought about consciously arent so difficult

you may believe in the importance of family, friendship, exercise, a healthy diet; you may have reason to believe your
political affiliation is the sensible one, and so on. But there are
dozens, maybe hundreds of unconscious, unexamined beliefs
that run your life from the subterranean levels of shadowy
awarenessbeliefs about your worthiness and competence, for
example, or whether people can be trusted or notthat were
deposited in childhood and continue to determine how you
relate to the world.
A paradigm is like the unconscious belief system of a culture.
We live and breathe these beliefs, and we think and interact
according to them.

The Old Scientific Paradigm Isnt Working

Practically every day, new scientific information is appearing
that cannot be explained using the classical Newtonian model.
Relativity theory, quantum mechanics, the influence of thoughts
and emotions on our bodies, so-called anomalies like ESP,
mental healing, remote viewing, people serving as mediums
and channels, near-death and out-of-body experiencesall
these point to the need for a different model, a new paradigm
that would include all these phenomena in a more comprehensive theory of how the world works.
Its not just that the old model is insufficient to answer the
questions the new research poses. An even more serious problem is that the old model has not done nearly enough to free
human life of suffering, poverty, injustice and war. In fact, a
good case could be made that many of these problems have
grown worse because of the mechanical model that has long
dominated our way of experiencing the world.


In beginning to understand
which paradigms govern my life,
I can start to see how I have
created the situations in my life.
Doing this movie and writing
this book have broken up a huge
unconscious paradigm of mine,
the one that made me think,
Im not that smart! I never
thought of myself as a person
who could understand any of
these concepts. Sure, I was savvy
and crafty and could hustle my
way around in the world and
become successful. But I was not
book smart. My first week on
this film, Will and Mark handed
me about twenty books and said,
Start reading, because youre
going to call these scientists
and convince them to be in our
film. It took a while for me to
stop telling myself I couldnt do
it. It was my jobI had to.
And once I gave up my hold on
my limitations, I dove in headfirst. Even now it still can haunt
mebut then I just repeat,
Im a genius!


Repercussions of the Newtonian Paradigm

Paradigm shifts also occur
on a human scale. It can be as
simple as suddenly waking up
and realizing something about
ourselves thats always been
there; we just never realized
it before. For example, I
discovered recently one of
the reasons for my voracious
appetite for knowledge. Not only
was it born out of curiosity,
but also a great deal of fear. I
remember as a child being afraid
of many things. Maybe as a
way to combat my feelings of
insecurity and uncertainty, I
decided to learn as much about
things as I could to try to build a
predictable model of reality.
This way I thought I could
foresee any eventuality that
might occur that might produce
pain. So it was a sad state of
affairs. I lived in a constant state
of fear because of my interpretation of events that occurred as a
child. It occurred to me recently,
though, that if I hadnt had that
fear, I would never have had my
obsession with knowledge.
In that moment of realization, I
felt completely grateful for all
those difficult experiences.
My view and version of the past
were forever changed in that
moment. Thats what I call
a paradigm shift. New eyes
viewing an old situation.


The materialist model of reality moved long ago from the

ranks of theory to become set in stone as the implicit basis of
all thought and research. It has governed scientific inquiry, and
the scientific worlds openness to what is possible or impossible, for 400 years. It tells us that the universe is a mechanical system composed of solid, material, elementary building
blocks. It asserts that what is real is what is measurable. And
what is measurable is only that which we can perceive with our
five senses, and any mechanical extension thereof. It also
assumes that the only valid approach to gaining knowledge is
to banish all feelings and subjectivity and become entirely
rational and objective.
This way of relating to the world divides the wholeness of
human life into mind and body. It declares feelings, passions,
intuition and imagination as unworthy. It objectifies nature
and sets us apart from it. In this view, nature becomes
resources to control and exploit rather than an organic living
system to care for and sustain.
According to the current scientific paradigm, we live in a
mechanical universe that is a dead universe. Its the world of the
machine. A living intelligence may have established it and set it
in motion (as Newton and the early scientists firmly believed),
but now, it is completely mechanical and predictable. Given any
set of initial conditions, the outcome is completely determined.
The effects are inevitable.
Now, even if the motion of planets is predictable like the
falling of rocks and apples, and the behavior and relationship
of objects in the material world are quantifiable (and we will
see later that quantum physics has challenged these terms), to
say this is true of human life is demeaning and stultifying.
Where does this kind of life lead? If theres no freedom, if the
path from wherever we are is completely determinedwhats
life about, then? There is no place for consciousness or spirit,
for freedom and choice, in this model.


A New Paradigm
In the words of Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, A lot of people want
quantum mechanics to be the rescuer from that kind of cold
and pitiless indifference. And the reason people feel they need
rescuing is because the cold, pitiless, mechanical idea is enormously powerful. Even if you dont profess to believe it, it has
affected your life and the worldview of civilization to an
immense degree.
Imagine yourself as a mechanical being (weve all seen
enough science fiction movies to do this pretty easily) living in
a totally dead world, in which all things are unconscious,
unresponsive objects totally controlled by abstract laws of
behavior. How does it feel? How do you feel about your loved
ones, now that you are just a machine and that love is just a
happenstance of brain chemistry, with nothing more than a
evolutionary advantage to the DNA?
Do you believe that? And yet most of the scientists in the
world are telling you that. They are the same people who tell
you why the sky is blue, and why your car starts in the morning, and why trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. And if
they had a big enough computer, they could tell you why you
are sitting there right now reading this particular book. Its all
initial conditions with which you (which is an illusion anyway) had nothing to do.
Do you believe that?
Of course, we have trouble thinking of ourselves as purely
mechanical beings. Thats because were not. And neither is
anyone else. We all experience that we have (or perhaps that we
are) consciousness and spirit, and that we do make choices.
Or do we?
And here we are at the bottom of the paradigm rabbit hole.
On the left is the life where we are conscious beings determining
our path, and on the right is just ones and zeroes that somehow
create the illusion of you.

From a classical point of

view, we are machines, and in
machines there is no room for
conscious experience. It doesnt
matter if the machine dies;
you can kill the machine, throw
it in the Dumpster . . .
it doesnt matter. If that is the
way the world is, then people
will behave in that way.
But theres another way of
thinking about the world,
which is . . . pointed to by
quantum mechanics,
which suggested that the world
is not this clockwork thing
but more like an organism.
Its a highly interconnected
organismic thing . . . which
extends through space and time.
So, from a very basic point of
view having to do with morals
and ethics, what I think affects
the world. In a sense thats really
the key for why the worldview
change is important.
Dean Radin, Ph.D.



Opposition from the Establishment

For me the big paradigm
change has to do with me
(in here) and the rest of the
universe (out there). If we are
just little clocklike, windup
soldiers in a ticktock universe,
then why should it concern me
what happens outside of me?
And its this attitude that makes
it easy to bomb people, deplete
resources and send future
generations into a destitute
world. Whereas when I extend
my boundaries in time and
space, its all different.
Practically, it means that instead
of leaving the light on all night
because Im too lazy to turn it
off, I think about the amount of
coal or oil that gets burned
lighting that bulb, then the
manufacturing to make it, and
the ozone hole and how in three
generations there will be
none left.
Its amazing how people will
worry all day about their next
meal, and yet not care about
what someone will eat 100 years
from now. The elk that graze in
my meadow go from one patch
to another, never eating ALL
the seeds. They dont wear
watches either.


Just as in the time of Copernicus, Newton and the other 16thand 17th-century pioneers of the scientific model, conservative
elements in society are not only closed to this new knowledge,
they are fiercely opposing it. The established orthodoxy is
rigidly entrenched and unwilling to consider any change. These
days, instead of the tried-and-true burning at the stake, the
ecclesiastical authorities have been replaced by some (not all)
people who use the power of universities, governmental grantmaking institutions, and a closed-minded media to threaten the
livelihood (through firing, denial of promotion or tenure, withholding of grant money, ridicule and sarcasm) rather than the
actual lives of heretical scientists whose ideas and research
projects dont fit within accepted bounds.
Amit Goswami sees hope. He believes that opposition is not
necessarily a bad thing. An opposition has something significant to say. You never exclude things so long as you think that
this is all rubbish, and just a cursory examination will eliminate the rubbish. But when things become significant and cursory examination doesnt do it anymore, thats when you
become rigid and you want to exclude the other. Because the
other is too dangerous. So the perception that the alternative
scientists are making a good case of their data in their field is
(impacting) already the world of establishment science. And
that is why the polarization is a very good sign that we are getting somewhere.

The Evolution of Scientific Paradigms

One of the great truths about paradigms is that they change.
Especially in science, which is an ongoing enterprise in which
one generation builds on the work of those who came before,
the paradigm of knowledge evolves as older views are proved to
be incomplete or incorrect. Sometimes slow, sometimes kicking


and screaming, but the grandeur of science is that it does move

on! Science inexorably moves on, building a new view, a new
structure on the foundation of the old.
Sometimes the current model bumps up against the ongoing
march of knowledge and comes away bruised by the encounter.
Then, whether with the support or against the opposition of
the powers that be, the model gives way to a new one.
Dr. Hagelin has described the process this way:

I believe that the

most far-reaching trend of
our times is an emerging shift in

Within the progress of science, there are stages of under-

our shared view of the universe

standing, stages of evolution of knowledge. Each of these

from thinking of it as dead to

stages brings its own worldview, its own paradigm, within

experiencing it as alive.

which people act, within which governments are born,

In regarding the universe as

nations are born, constitutions are written, institutions are

alive and ourselves as

structured, education is created. So, worlds evolve from

continuously sustained within

paradigm to paradigm as knowledge progresses. Each age

that aliveness, we see that

has its own characteristic worldview, its characteristic

we are intimately related to

paradigm, and one ultimately leads to another.

everything that exists. This

insight . . . represents a
new way of looking at and


Along with many leading-edge scientists, William
Tiller has run into in-the-box bias head-on. He says,
Okay, here weve done experiments with intention and
theyre very robust. . . . Why doesnt science rush in? That
is the true sadness. The majority of scientists have
become so locked into the conventional paradigm and
the conventional way of viewing nature that they built a
jail around themselves. If you provide experimental data
that violates their precepts, they want it to go away, and
so theyll sweep it under the rug. They will not let you
publish. They will try to block all venues for communicating it because its very uncomfortable. It is unfortunateand its always pretty much been that way. Its a
human characteristic to be comfortable with a certain
way of viewing the world. New stuff is uncomfortable;


relating to the world and

overcomes the profound
separation that has
marked our lives.
Duane Elgin


you have to change your way of thinking.

Tiller explains one important reason the current paradigm of scientific reality needs to change:
There is no place in . . . our present paradigm for any
form of consciousness, intention, emotion, mind or spirit
to enter. And because our work shows that consciousness
can have a very robust effect on physical reality, that
means that ultimately there must be a paradigm shift; a
shift that would allow consciousness to be incorporated;
the structure of the universe has to be expanded beyond
what it presently is in order to allow it to enter.

Personal Paradigm Shift

The paradigm shift under way today is not just happening
in science. It also extends into society and is powerfully
impacting our culture. Perhaps the most important shift that
is taking place is personal. Over the last couple of decades,
many thousands, maybe many millions of people have undergone dramatic transformations in their values, perceptions
and ways of relating to each other and to the world.
Why is this happening? One reason is that people have realized that at the end of their quest for flashier cars and bigger
houses and shoes for every day of the year, what remains is an
emptinessthe same emptiness they tried to fill with possessions and financial success. The materialistic worldview says:
more money = better life. But having gotten more and finding
that the emptiness remains, the conclusion is: The materialistic
assumption is wrong.
Another reason? If the new paradigm is correct, and the
universe is a living being, of which we, and our thoughts, and
the planets, and all the subatomic particles are part, then the
necessity for a new worldview will itself cause that to happen.
It may be human arrogance (not that again!), which seems like
we are bringing in the new view. A hungry organism always



seeks out food. We are part of that organism, as are the planets, our thoughts and subatomic particles, and we are searching for a new way because we know we are camped out on
deaths doorstep.
And its not a comfortable place to be. Polluted water and
foul air. Overpopulation vying with starvation and suitcasesize weapons that can take down a city. The list goes on and on.
Dr. Candace Pert says the body always wants to heal itself. So
if our reality, both physical and non-physical, is a huge organism, as is suggested by the new physics, then that reality is
this moment trying to heal itself. And out of that impulse new
conceptions of the world are arising, even as old conceptions
of the world fight to stay entrenched.
What is in the balance? Our notion of reality. Who is the
balance? We are.



Ponder These for a While . . .

What paradigm governs your reality?
What color are your glasses (both conscious and unconscious)?
How do you find the unconscious glasses?
What is the predominant world paradigm?
How is it different from your paradigm?
How do they interact?
Is social consciousness a paradigm?
Is People Magazine a paradigm?
Is the Bible?
What would it take for you to shift to a new paradigm?
Are you willing to give up everything attached to the old paradigm?
What is your new paradigm?
Is it your new paradigm or a new global paradigm?
If we really are mutant machines . . . can you fall in love
with your toaster?

This chapter coulda gone anywhere. Right after

Great Questions (its the biggee, right?). Or in
the middle of Science and Religion (since both
are taking their crack at it). Paradigm Shift
could be called The Accepted Reality Shift.

Animals and birds often

live in a reality very different
from ours. Some can hear
sounds we cant hear, or see
light frequencies (ultraviolet,
infrared) that we cant see.
Most mammals (like dogs)
live in a world filled with scents,
and rely much less than we
do on vision. What about
infants who stare for hours
at an empty corner
of the ceiling?

ow about after Sight and Perception (the next chapter), which deals with what we perceiveand take to
be real? Or the Quantum Physics chapter, which
delves into reality at its core. Lets face itit coulda/shoulda
gone everywhere.
No? Tell me, what is reality when youve just fallen in love
(the Emotions chapter) or when your true love has just died.
What about the Desire chapter, which deals with choice and
free will? Do you think those decisions are based on reality, or
your assumption of it?
Lets see, what other upcoming chapters fit into our vision of
reality? Consciousness Creates Reality. Okaytheres a tie-in.
On and on it goes . . .
This question is everywhere. Its in every chapter, in every
moment that we live. Every decision is based on some construct
of what is real to you. Yet when was the last time you took the
rabbit-hole ride down into your assumptions about reality?
We asked more than a few scientists this question. In his
response, Dr. David Albert touches on how and why we answer
this question every day:

If I get out of bed in the morning, okay, and I suddenly

decide to take very seriously the claim, which is surely a



true claim . . . that I dont know for sure if my eyes are

working correctly, so that for all I know even though it
looks like theres a stable floor by the side of my bed, there
might be a cliff or something like that. If I am unable to
order those possibilities in terms of probabilities that I
assign to them, then Im not gonna get out of bed! Seems
to me Im paralyzed in the most literal sense of the word.
One hypothesis is there really is a floor there, and thats
what Im seeing. Another hypothesis is my seeing the floor
is a hallucination, and theres a cliff there. By getting out of
bed in the morning, you endorse one of those hypotheses
as more likely than another. Thats the way were used to
proceeding in our ordinary lives.

We endorse the reality that our eyes give us, so for us in that
moment we answered the question looming above usWhat
is reality? Most people think reality is what our senses project
to us. And, of course, science has gone along with that view for
400 years: If it is not perceivable by our five senses (or their
extensions), its not real.
But even this reality appears one way when we look at it
with our eyes, and another if we look more deeply into it with
a microscope or an atom smasher. Then it becomes totally
different, unrecognizable.
And what about our thoughts? Are they part of reality?
Take a look around right now. There are windows and chairs
and lights and this book. You probably thought they were all
real. All of them were preceded by an idea of windows and
chairs. Someone imagined those windows and chairs and created them. So if the latter is real, is the idea real as well? Most
people think thoughts and emotions are realbut when scientists explore reality, they carefully avoid talking about such


What about consciousness,

the fundamental fact of our
own existence, that goes with
us wherever we go? In order to
do anything, to think, to dream,
to create, to perceive, we have
to be conscious. Isnt that part
of reality? But where is it? What
is it made of? Unlike material
objects, intangible phenomena
like consciousness cant be
measured, but that doesnt mean
theyre not real, or does it?
Many scientists are in a real
pickle on this one. If its real,
then its reality can be
examined; if its not real, then
they never have to go looking
for it. And thus it will never
be known as real.
So, What is Real?possibly
our most common question
isnt easy to answer. And yet
who we are, what life is, what is
possible and what is not, is all
based on what we think is real.


Back to the Laboratory!

I never questioned reality.

Why would I do something as
silly as that? Then the reality
I was in became a mess, and I
began to question my reality
not necessarily the tables and
chairs, but my perception of it.
Once I realized that my reality
was only the construct of my
limitations, I realized I had to
be willing to dream outside of
them. What is it that I truly
desire that I dont believe I can
have or become? The only thing
solid in my reality is my
perception of it. If I am
willing to open my eyes to
new possibilities, my
reality can change.


Having not come up with the answer to What is reality?

which turned out to be way too big a questionhumanity
turned to the lab and tackled a simpler aspect: Take all the
stuff around us, which we all pretty well agree is real, and
see what thats made of. Thats much simpler than dreams or
ideas or emotions or any of that inner stuff.
It was the Greek philosopher Democritus of Abdera who
first had the idea of an atom: Nothing exists except atoms and
empty space; everything else is opinion. And that was a great
place to start. So out came the electron microscopes and atom
smashers and cloud chambers, and we big people peered into
the world of the little things.
Now when you went to school, you probably were shown a
model of an atom, with its solid nucleus and orbiting electrons,
and you were probably told, Atoms are the building blocks of
nature. Nice try! Its a neat concept and diagrams quite nicely,
but it just aint so.
It turned out that those solid little atoms, in their neat little
orbits, were really just energy packets. Then it was discovered
that theyre not really energy packets either, but momentary
condensations of a field of energy. . . . Of course, as you know,
every atom consists almost entirely of empty space, so much
so that its a kind of miracle that we dont hit the floor every
time we try to sit down on a chair. And since the floor is also
mostly empty, where would we find something solid enough to
hold us? The kicker here is that weat least our bodiesare
made up of atoms, too!
And now leading-edge research is suggesting that the socalled empty space within and between atoms is not empty at
all; its so lively with energy that one cubic centimeterabout
a thimbleful or an area the size of a marblecontains more
energy than all the solid matter in the entire known universe!
So what did you say Reality was?


Going Deeper
Long before the early Greek philosophersand certainly
long before quantum physiciststhe sages of India knew that
there was something important going on beyond the realm of
the senses. Both Hindu and Buddhist seers taught, and still
teach, that the world of appearances, the world we see with our
senses, is maya, or illusion, and that something underlies this
material realm, something that is more powerful and more
fundamental, more real even though its completely
intangible. As so many spiritual texts suggest, there is a higher
reality that is more fundamental than the material universe is,
and it has something to do with consciousness.
This is precisely what quantum physics is revealing. It suggests that at the core of the physical world there is a completely
non-physical realm, whether we call it information, probability
waves or consciousness. And just as we commonly say that
atoms are what things are really made of, if this view is correct, we would have to say that this underlying field of intelligence is, deep down, what the universe really is.
NASA astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell came to this conclusion
on his return trip from space:

There is essentially nothing

to matter whatsoever
its completely insubstantial.
The most solid thing you could
say about all this insubstantial
matter is that its more like a
thought; its like a concentrated
bit of information.
Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.

In one moment I realized that this universe is intelligent.

It is proceeding in a direction, and we have something to
do with that direction. And that creative spirit, the creative
intent that has been the history of this planet, comes from
within us, and it is out thereit is all the same . . .
Consciousness itself is what is fundamental, and energymatter is the product of consciousness . . . If we change our
heads about who we areand can see ourselves as creative,
eternal beings creating physical experience, joined at that
level of existence we call consciousnessthen we start to
see and create this world that we live in quite differently.1
Which Dr. Mitchell did. He landed and created the Institute of Noetic Sciences
(IONS) as a research institute to scientifically investigate his and others mystical perceptions about reality.



The Possibly Greater/Truer Reality

of Consciousness

Ive noticed that some people

sometimes think that asking
questions like What is reality?
is pointless and that it doesnt
deal with day-to-day realities.
But lets suppose for a moment
that our world out there is
constructed by our perception.
How do we alter the foundation
that is creating that world?
Do we try and change the
things out there in the world?
Well, thats what most of us keep
doing, and it never works.
Ever tried to run away from a
situation and find that your
problems followed you? Well, of
course they did. Thats because
you dont leave your nervous
system behind. You still react
the same way to the same old
stimuli. So whats a better
way? Know this: Reality has
everything to do with us.


Mitchells realization parallels the experience of mystics

throughout the ages, right up to today. Andrew Newberg, M.D.,
has studied the mystical/spiritual experience from the point of
view of neuroscience and written about it in Why God Wont Go
Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief and The Mystical
Mind: Probing the Biology of Belief. He says that people who have
a deep mystical experience and then come back to the ordinary world still perceive that reality to be more real, to represent the truer, more fundamental form of reality; the material
world that we live in is a more secondary reality for them.
Because of this, Dr. Newberg says, We need to really look at
the relationship between consciousness and material reality. . . .
Whether or not the material world can actually be derived from
a conscious reality or whether consciousness, itself, could even
be the fundamental stuff of the universe.

Can We Ever Really Know?

In the 18th century, the German philosopher Emmanuel
Kant pointed out that human beings can never truly know the
nature of reality as it is. Our investigations only provide answers
to the questions we ask, which are based on the capabilities and
limitations of our minds. Everything we perceive in the natural
world (whether with our senses or through science) comes
through the filter of our consciousness, and is determined, at
least to some extent, by the minds own structures. Thus, what
we see are phenomena, that is, the interactions between the
mind and whatever is really out there. We dont see reality; we
only see our construction of reality, built up by the neurons of
our brains. The thing-in-itself is forever hidden from us.
To put it another way, science only gives us models of the
world, not the world itself. As Miceal Ledwith says:


Well, you know, the quantum view of reality is not the

be-all and the end-all. All were trying to do in the history
of science is to produce less and less imperfect models to
express the nature of what exists and, of course, in maybe
twenty or thirty years time quantum physics will be
replaced by a deeper and more profound understanding of
reality, whatever that particular physics will be named.

And after science gives us those models, there is still the us

to deal with, as Dr. Andrew Newberg points out:
As far as whether or not were just living in a big holodeck, its a question that we dont necessarily have a good
answer to. I think this is a big philosophical problem that
we have to deal with, in terms of what science can say
about our world, because we are always the observer in
science. We are always constrained by what is ultimately
coming into our human brain that allows us to see and
perceive the things that we do. So, it is conceivable that all
of this is just a great illusion that we have no way of getting
outside of to see what is really out there.

Levels of Reality
One piece of information that can be very helpful in dealing
with mind-bending questions about the nature of reality is the
idea that there are different levels existing simultaneously, and
that all of them are real. In other words, the surface levels are
real in their own right; its only when we compare them to
deeper levels that we say they are not really real; they are not the
ultimate level. Arms and legs are real; cells and molecules are
real; atoms and electrons are real. And consciousness is real. As
Dr. John Hagelin says:
There literally are different worlds in which we live. Theres

I remember first running into

the idea that we create reality
in our minds, and that the
physical world is just a
construct. I had just read
Nature of Personal Reality by
Jane Roberts. So I closed my
eyes and thought the wall in
front of me wasnt real and that
when I opened my eyes I would
see through it. Didnt work.
Or did it?
Sure, I had been holding the idea
in my mind that the wall didnt
exist, but everything about the
way I sat there, expecting to
be held up by the floor, being
pulled by gravity, all supported
the worldview that the world
was the realest thing there is.
When I get out of bed in the
morning and put my feet down,
I truly believe that the floor is
real and not an illusion, and
theres not really a bottomless
pit there.
Every action we do assumes
something about reality. Still, we
seldom consciously ask it. We
assume it, and reality complies,
and so we never see the hand
that makes it. Theres a Zen
question here somewhere.
What is the sound of one
reality collapsing?

surface truth, and theres deep truth. Theres the macroscopic

world that we see, theres the world of ourselves, theres the



world of our atoms, the world of our nuclei. These are each
totally different worlds.
They have their own language; they have their own
mathematics. Theyre not just smaller; each is totally different, but theyre complementary because I am my atoms, but
I am also my cells. Im also my macroscopic physiology. Its
all true. Theyre just different levels of truth.

1. Its all true.
2. None of it is truethere are only models.
3. We cannot ever get out of our own way to perceive the all.
4. By expanding our awareness, we can perceive the all.
5. All of the above are true.
6. All of the above are models.
7. Or . . .

The easy answer to the question

as to whether reality is illusory
and its really all fuzzy like all
probabilities . . . would be yes. So
if somebody came up to me and
asked that question, Id say yes,
thats basically right. But its
more complicated than that
because at the moment that you
interact with reality, it does come
into absolutely rock solid existence. Its only fuzzy when
youre not interacting with it.
Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.


Is Reality a Democratic Process?

In our day-to-day lives, in our moment-by-moment decision about reality, is it simply democratic? Or to put it another
way, at what point in agreement from those around us does
something become real? If there are ten people in a room, and
eight see a chair and two see a Martian, who is delusional?
If twelve people see a lake as a body of water, and one person
sees it as solid enough to walk on, who is delusional?
Going back a chapter, we could say a paradigm is simply the
most commonly accepted notion (model) about what is real.
We vote with our actions, and that becomes real.
So the kicker to all this is: Does consciousness create reality?
Is that why no one has ever come up with a good answer
because reality IS the answer?


Ponder These for a While . . .

What are your assumptions of reality? Whats the most basic one
you make every day?
Have you ever thought about what thoughts are made of?
Can you give an example of how your thoughts become reality?
Was writing an answer to the preceding question an example?
What are dreams? If both dreaming and perception are primarily
brain activities, why would you think that the outside world was
more real?
Which state feels more real?
What is the difference between reality and your perception of it?
How will changing your paradigm change your perception of
Is it possible to change your perception of reality without changing your paradigm?
What color are your glasses now?



What the Bleep Do We Know!?

And Manual for Navigating Rabbit Holes
Presented by

The Institute of Noetic Sciences

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Welcome to the What the Bleep Do We Know!? Study Guide and Manual for
Navigating Rabbit Holes. Congratulations on your decision to continue the adventure you
began by watching the film.
A few words about entering rabbit holes . . .
The questions that have drawn you into this adventure are as deep as questions get.
Philosophers, scientists, and mystics have been asking these questions for thousands of
years, and after all this time, what is known is still dwarfed by the vastness of what is not
known. What we have gained from all our studies is the capacity to ask more precise
questions and a greater appreciation for the depth of the mystery. We offer this study
guide with the intent not to satisfy your curiosity about existence but to enrich your
capacity to explore and participate in those mysteries with an open mind and spacious
At the core of this film are provocative questions about the way we participate,
consciously or not, in an unfolding, dynamic reality. What the Bleep Do We Know!?
proposes that there is no solid, static universe out there, waiting to be comprehended by
our probing minds, but that reality is so mutable, it is affected by our very perception of
it. At the same time, it does not argue that reality is entirely relative or simply constructed
out of thin air. No matter what your theory of reality, real Mack trucks can and do run
over real people. There are consistent dynamics at play in the universe, some things that
are truer than other things.
This is why when it comes to navigating rabbit holes, it is important to know the
difference among what can be known through sensory empiricism (the contribution of
science), what is known intuitively, what comes to us as mystical vision, and what
remains unknowable. This is not to favor one form of knowing over another but to
discern when we have crossed the line of science into imagination, instinct, or intuition.
Many claims made and research cited in What the Bleep!? are considered marginal by the
mainstream scientific community. In many instances this means the claims have not been
demonstrated to everyones satisfaction or they challenge prevailing scientific theories.
Still we may decide to believe them because they feel right to us. In this guide we hope to
shed some light on when these claims are more useful as subjective opinons and
metaphors that spark the imagination rather than as facts on which to base solid theories.
The journey to explore the nature of things is served equally by the rigors of science and
the protean powers of the imagination, and as much by mystical vision as by embodied
wisdom. It is our intention that this exploration down the rabbit hole will lead you into
your own deepest ways of knowing and that it will invite your imagination into a larger
realm of possibilities that you can explore for yourself. In that realm a channeled warrior
speaks in concert with physicists, mind and matter wake up in each others arms, and a
10-year-old basketball sage shoots hoops into the future. Welcome to the rabbit hole!
As the bonfires of knowledge grow brighter, the more the darkness is revealed to our
startled eyes. Terrence McKenna

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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of
the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little
of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Albert Einstein

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About The Institute of Noetic

This study guide was created by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), a nonprofit
research and educational organization committed to expanding our understanding of
human possibility by investigating aspects of realitymind, consciousness, and spirit
that include but go beyond physical phenomena. The word "noetic" comes from the
ancient Greek nous, for which there is no exact equivalent in English. It refers to inner
knowing, a kind of intuitive consciousnessthat is, direct and immediate access to
knowledge beyond what is available to our normal senses and the power of reason.
Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness, using
multiple ways of knowingincluding intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic
sciences explore the inner cosmos of the mindconsciousness, soul, spiritand how it
relates to the outer cosmos of the physical world.
The vision for creating IONS came in 1971. Nations throughout the world had mobilized
around the exciting frontier of space exploration. The potential for scientific
understanding of our world seemed unlimited to naval air captain Edgar Mitchell. He was
a pragmatic young test pilot, engineer, and scientist. A mission to the moon on Apollo 14
was his dream come true. The trip home was especially memorable for Mitchell. Sitting
in the cramped cabin of the space capsule, he saw planet Earth floating freely in the
vastness of space. He was engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectednessan
epiphany. In Mitchell's own words: "The presence of divinity became almost palpable,
and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes. .
. . The knowledge came to me directly."
Today a small team of Noetic scientists fulfills this visionary mission through frontier
research, transformational learning programs, and 30,000 members. IONS conducts and
sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness that
includes perception, belief, attention, intention, and intuition. The Institute explores
phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models, while maintaining a
commitment to scientific rigor. IONS is deeply committed to building community,
providing ways for its members and colleagues to share their experiences and ideas with
one another through local community groups, online discussions, and other networking
The Institute is not a spiritual association, political-action group, or a single-cause
institute. Rather, the Institute of Noetic Sciences honors open-minded approaches and
multiple ways of knowing, brings discernment to its work, and supports diverse
perspectives on social and scientific matters.
Resource: For general information about IONS visit our website:
www.noetics.org/ For more information about IONS research see
http://noetic.org/research.cfm. To find out about community groups go to:

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What Is in the Guide?

This guide is divided into chapters that provide an overview of topic areas, as well as
references and links to articles on the Internet. Each chapter also includes questions for
seeding dialogue, activities for engaging the ideas more fully, and quotations to inspire
Paradigm Shift
A paradigm is a framework that holds all the elements of our experience together and
creates a coherent picture of realitya worldview. What are the roots of our current
prevailing paradigm? What worldview is articulated in What the Bleep!? What difference
does it really make? Our worldview implies a way of knowing. This chapter also explores
how to question claims of knowledge. What makes science, intuition, or channeled
messages reliable or easy to dismiss?
Quantum Reality
What are the discoveries of quantum physics? What challenges do they pose to our
current worldview? What do the discoveries of quantum physics tell us about the nature
of reality? Many of the pioneers in quantum physics disagreed on the implications of
their discoveries. Explore different explanations and perspectives on this mind-boggling
science or add your own.
Creating Our Days
How can we create our days consciously and with clear intention? What is the scientific
evidence for the power of intention? How can we know if our intention is having an
effect? Here we explore both the extent and limits of our creative capacities and offer
guidance on establishing our own practices for creating our days?
Healing the Past
How can we let go of old stories and shift the way we interact with the world? Here we
explore ways in which emotional patterns can become biomechanical processes, and we
introduce pathways to begin liberating ourselves from past conditioning.

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How to Use the Guide

Once individuals link together they become something different. . . . Relationships
change us, reveal us, evoke more from us. Only when we join with others do our gifts
become visible, even to ourselves. Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers
You might find it is more fun and enriching to explore rabbit holes in the company of
other brave adventurers. You can play with more ideas, hear different perspectives, and
get support for your transformation. This study guide is designed to make it easy for
groups to engage the material together.
The Institute of Noetic Sciences has a national network of community groups made up of
IONS members. This is an excellent way to meet others who have been exploring the
same terrain. Each group is a self-organizing, self-directed voluntary association that
operates independently of the Institute. For information on meeting times, topics, and
locations, see: http://noetic.org/community/groups.cfm You need to become an IONS
member to join a group. It is easy to become a member; see:
Whether you decide to join an IONS group or start your own, we suggest you gather five
to ten people and reserve a minimum of two to three hours for each chapter. Make sure
everyone has had a chance to read and reflect on the readings before you meet. It is also
helpful if people highlight sections of the reading or the questions that stir their interest.
To get the most out of your study group, we suggest having a facilitator, whose job is to
open and close meetings, make sure everyone gets a chance to contribute, keep the flow
going, track the clock, and establish the next meetings host and facilitator.
Whether you are forming a group that will stay together as you go through the whole
study guide or are calling new people together for specific topic areas, here are a few tips
to make the meetings as satisfying as possible:
Have food! Never underestimate the power of food.
Choose a host.
Choose a facilitator.
Start and end on time.
Meet at the same time and on the same day of the week.
Schedule as many meetings in advance as possible.

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It is helpful if the group agrees to some ground rules for the conversations. Here are some
suggestions (also see the section on group dialogue):
When someone is talking, maintain a strong intention to be present.
Practice not interrupting.
Speak and listen from the heart.
Make sure each voice is heard.
Read the chapter content before coming to the meeting.
This guide provides materials that you can use to set up meetings in any way you are
inspired. We encourage you to be creative and to follow the energy of the group. Even if
you choose not to use a meeting design, it helps to have one available as a launching pad.
Here are some elements and a flow for the evening that we recommend.
Creating the Space Sit in a circle and take a moment of silence to become present
together. You might light a candle or invoke sacred space in some way. This is a good
time to read a poem or offer an intention: for example, May our time together help each
of us become more fully alive to the beauty and mystery of existence, and may it bring
more consciousness to our world.
510 minutes
Check-In If the group is new, make sure everyone has a chance to introduce
themselves, saying where theyre from and why they came to the study group. Even if the
group is already familiar with one another, it can still be helpful to go around the circle,
checking in with the specific interests and curiosities members have brought to this
particular meeting. Each check-in should be no longer than two minutes.
1015 minutes
What Are We Talking About? Review the content of the chapter by inviting people to
share the sections that most interested them.
1520 minutes
Group Dialogue Review the dialogue questions for inspiration. The questions are
interspersed throughout the reading. Some chapters have additional questions at the end.
Because there are a lot of questions, we suggest you read each aloud and respond to the
ones that have the most energy for you. Some questions invite you to explore
intellectually, some are more personal, and others are practical. We highly recommend
that you spend time sharing thoughts and reflections in each of these areas. In the section
titled Dialogue in this introduction, we offer suggestions for making the dialogue as
rich as possible.

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45 minutes1 hour
In the Bones: Exercises and Activities Each chapter includes several activities
designed to help you fully engage the material and explore its implications. Exercises can
be interspersed between dialogues or done afterward. There are group activities to enrich
your meetings and individual activities and practices to enable you in deeper exploration
on your own.
20 minutes per exercise
Sharing Resources - Provide the opportunity for people to share and distribute
resources, articles, and information about the topic. Encourage people to gather materials
to share in future groups.
510 minutes
Taking It Home Each chapter includes some activities or practices you can do at
home. Review the possibilities and decide what you want to commit to doing.
5 minutes
Check-Out Go around the circle to share intentions and commitments for practices
people will do at home, to offer gratitude and appreciations, and to speak to what worked
and did not work about the meeting. The next facilitator will take notes for future
1015 minutes
Plan Ahead Set up logistics for the next meeting. Make sure you have established a
date, a host, a facilitator, and the chapter you will be studying.
5 minutes
Close End the meeting by taking a moment of silence and offering a blessing or
poem. If you have had a candle lit during the meeting, you can blow it out as part of your
closing ritual.
5 minutes

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A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their
prejudices. David Bohm
What makes some conversations so much juicier and satisfying than others? Sometimes it
has to do with the content. More often than not, it is a function of the way people talk and
listen to one another. At its best, conversation can be a shared exploration toward greater
understanding, connection, and possibility. Good dialogue does not consist of arguments,
posturing, holding forth, defensiveness, bantering discussions, or other forms of
communication where we do not discover anything new or connect with one another.
Good dialogue actually changes how we think.
Talking Staff
A lot of good research has been done exploring structures that make group conversations
truly generative. Some tools, like the talking staff (typically a wooden rod or pole), are
ancient. Using a talking staff is a simple structure to help deepen conversation. The
person holding the talking staff speaks from the heart. When not holding the staff
yourself, listen to the speaker. If you wish to speak, make a gesture to indicate that you
would like the staff passed to you.
Bohmian Dialogue
A more recent approach to dialogue was developed by quantum physicist David Bohm
(see: http://www.ionsnw.org/DavidBohm.htm). Bohmian Dialogue is a process that puts
into practice many of the ideas expressed in What the Bleep Do We know!? Its purpose is
to help expose and liberate us from habits of mind, so that we are not just replaying tired
assumptions and beliefs but thinking new thoughts and creating new neural networks
Core Principles of Dialogue
from http://thedialogueproject.org/dialogue.htm
Whatever tools you use, however formal your dialogue, we hope you have a great
adventure. See you inside the rabbit hole!
God be with those who explore
In the cause of understanding:
Whose search takes them far
From what is familiar and comfortable
and leads them to danger or terrifying loneliness.
Let us try to understand their confronting or
Unusual language; the uncommon life of their emotions,

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For they have been affected and shaped and changed

By their struggle at the frontiers of a wild darkness,
Just as we may be affected, shaped, and changed
By the insights they bring back to us
Bless them with strength and peace.
By Luenig
From Prayer Tree

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It takes a village to write a study guide. We are grateful for every member of the village:
Executive Director: Marilyn Schlitz, PhD
Project Director: Gwen Gordon
Business Director: Stephen Dinan
Editorial Consultant: Keith Thompson
Production Support: Charlene Farrell, Matthew Gilbert, Jenny Mathews, Jeffrey
Copy Editors: Vesela Simic
Gwen Gordon
June Katzen
Christian de Quincey, PhD
Dean Radin, PhD
Marguerite Rigoglioso
Marilyn Schlitz, PhD
Keith Thompson
Cassandra Vieten, PhD
Research Assistants
Bob Lange
Lael OLeary
Thomas Mc Farlane
Gregory Mengel
Dean Radin, PhD
Michelle Woodward

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Additional Resources
Bohn, David. On Dialogue. Routledge, 1999.
Ellinor, Linda, and Gerard, Glenna. Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of
Conversation. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1998.
Hammond, Sue Annis. Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Thin Book, 1998.
Isaacs, William, Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together. Doubleday, 1999.
Jaida NHa, Sandra. The Joy of Conversation. Utne, 1997. The Utne Readersponsored
guide to co-creative salons of all types. Excellent write-ups on study circles, listening
circles, and more. See: http://www.utne.com/
Oliver, Leonard P. Study Circles: Coming Together for Personal Growth and Social
Change. Seven Locks Press, 1987.
For an informative list distinguishing dialogue from debate, see Dialogue vs. Debate on
the Canadas National Adult Literacy Database http://www.nald.ca/clr/study/scdvd.htm
For a general description of many types of dialogue, see the Dialogue section of the CoIntellegence Institutes website.http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-dialogue.html
For guidance on facilitation, see facilitaion and links pages on the Co-Intelegence
Institutes website
Resource Center
The Study Circle Resource Center, PO Box 203, Pomfret, CT, 06258. Phone (860) 9282616, FAX (860) 928-3713, e-mail scrc@neca.com and www.studycircles.org
Provides training materials, study circle packets, and guidance. Helpful staff. You can ask
for their study circle guide "Building Strong Neighborhoods" and the larger
neighborhood kit, which has a plan for organizing whole cities, as well as the dialogue

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Paradigm Shift
The success of the masterpieces seems to lie not so much in their freedom from faults
indeed we tolerate the grossest errors in them all but in the immense persuasiveness of
a mind which has completely mastered its perspective. Virginia Woolf
The universe is made of stories, not atoms. Muriel Rukeyser
Ever since humans first developed the capacity to think and wonder, we have been awed
by the magnificence, beauty, and sometimes terrifying forces of nature. Witnessing the
journey of life from the miracle of birth to the finality of death, our ancestors wondered:
Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Like us, they wanted
to understand their place in the world and the forces that controlled their lives.
We engage these mysteries through our stories. In some stories earth spirits inhabit every
aspect of nature, in others there is a single sky god who rules from above, still others tell
us we are alone in an indifferent universe. Can we say that any of these stories are truer,
better, more valid than others? If so, in what ways? How do we evaluate what is true?
And what happens when the stories we have relied on our whole lives stop making sense?
The ideas presented in the film What the Bleep Do We Know!? challenge aspects of the
prevailing story the West has told itself for the past 300 years. The paradox is that these
challenges arose from the application of Western science in ever deeper ways of studying
the world. The ways of knowing that have reinforced the old story are paving the way to
a new one. Indeed, the history of science can be viewed as an evolution of ideas that
reveal that reality is not as it appears, nor are we precisely who we think we are. The film
presents us with the science and philosophy that are the basis of a new story, and the
implications are paradigm shattering.

What Is a Paradigm?
The word paradigm refers to the conceptual framework, belief systems, and overall
perspective through which we see and interpret the world.
The dictionary defines paradigm as a pattern, example, or model. The word derives
from the Greek paradeigma, composed of para, meaning alongside of, beside or
beyond, and deigma, meaning example or a showing. So para-digm means beside
or beyond example; we could say it is that which is alongside or fits an example
hence, a model. We could also say it is that which is beyond showing, implying it is
something that is somehow invisible or unnoticed. Thus, paradigm catches a double
sense, meaning both a model of something (for instance, the world) and an invisible
structure (for instance, the system of thinking within which we view the world).
Our paradigm determines what we are able to see, how we think, and what we do. We do
not question its accuracy because were usually unaware of its existence. Trying to reflect
on our own worldview is like trying to study the color blue while wearing blue-colored

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glasses. We cannot distance ourselves enough from it to see how much it affects our
perception. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are. Our
paradigms are usually all we know and only become perceptible to us when we encounter
ones that are different from our own.
Scientific Paradigms
Science historian Thomas Kuhn brought paradigms into prominence in his classic book
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago, 1962). He describes how
the scientific community holds paradigms, like an accepted judicial decision in the
common law. Kuhn goes on to explain:
Paradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in
solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute.
The success of a paradigm . . . is at the start largely a promise of success discoverable in
selected and still incomplete examples. Normal science consists in the actualization of
that promise.
According to Kuhn, a scientific paradigm is more like a hypothesis which normal
science elaborates upon by accumulating more and more data. As such, scientists tend to
seek consistency and avoid novelty. They frequently overlook anomalies that challenge
the existing paradigm until those anomalies become too disruptive to ignore.
Any scientific paradigm takes place within a cultural context that supports the project of
science. While paradigms can exist on many scalespersonal, family, communitythey
flow out from the headwaters of a deeper cultural paradigm that is the context within
which our understanding of science or religion exists.

Metaphors We Live By
Our core assumptions about the universe are embedded in the metaphors we use. Ecophilosopher Joanna Macy explores five central metaphors through which people in
different spiritual traditions see the world: world
Resource: For more information
as battlefield, world as classroom, world as trap,
Joanna Macys work, see
world as lover, and world as self. We have added
to this list a secular worldview: world as machine.
World as Battlefield
Many people see the world as a battlefield, where good and evil are pitted against each
other and the forces of light battle the forces of darkness. This ancient tradition goes back
to the Zoroastrians and the Manichaeans. . . . There is the sense that you are fighting
Gods battle and that ultimately you will win. William Irwin Thompson called this kind
of certainty and self-righteousness the apartheid of good.
World as Classroom

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A more innocuous version of the battlefield image, Macy offers, is the image of the
world as a classroom, a kind of moral gymnasium where you are put through certain tests
which would prove your mettle and teach you certain lessons, so you can graduate to
other arenas and rewards. Whether a battlefield or a classroom, the world is a proving
ground, with little worth beyond that. What counts is our immortal souls, which are being
tested here. . . . For the sake of your soul, you are ready to destroy.
These two views are strong among monotheistic religions. But according to Macy,
agnostics can also fall prey to this way of thinking when they become militant or selfrighteous. Fundamentalism has both religious and secular adherents.
World as Trap
Here the spiritual path is not to engage in struggle and vanquish the foe, but to
disentangle ourselves and escape from this messy world. We try to extricate ourselves
and ascend to a higher, supra-phenomenal plane. This stance is based on a hierarchical
view of reality, where mind is seen as higher than matter and spirit is set over and above
nature. This view encourages contempt for the material plane. The Western worldview
was based on this metaphor, with the trap being the illusion that the phenomenal world is
real. To know truth one must directly apprehend the eternal, transcendent Platonic ideas
or forms. These perfect forms are unchanging, a welcome relief from the overwhelming
flux and chaos of the world.
Elements of this worldview have entered all major religions of the last 3,000 years,
regardless of their metaphysics. Macy tells us, Many of us on spiritual paths fall for this
view. Wanting to affirm a transcendent reality distinct from a society that appears very
materialistic, we place it on a supra-phenomenal level removed from confusion and
suffering. The tranquility that spiritual practices can provide, we imagine, belongs to a
haven that is aloof from our world and to which we can ascend and be safe and serene.
For those not engaged in spiritual pursuits, another version of this worldview is the idea
that we need to get healed from all our neuroses and hang-ups first and then we can
participate in the world. In this view the self and the world are seen as essentially
separate, so we believe we can heal one without healing the other.
World as Machine
Also known as modernity, the world is viewed as a collection of inanimate objects that
interact in predictable, mechanistic ways based on mathematical laws (developed
principally by Isaac Newton and thus known as Newtonian, or classical physics).
Introduced in the seventeenth century by Descartes, Newton, Bacon, and others,
modernity established a discontinuity between mind and matter, the subjective and
objective, and ultimately between science and religion. Over centuries of fierce struggle
between a rising tide of empiricists who battled against an entrenched theology, an
uneasy truce developed. Science claimed the domain of the physical world, religion
claimed the domain of the mental world.

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Resources: For more information on the scientific revolution, see the scientific revolution page
on the Internet Modern History Sourcebook website
For more information on love and evolutionary biology, see Dr. G. Campbell Teskey
A Discussion of David Buss's A Dangerous Passion - Jealousy & Evolutionary Psychology
For general information on evolutionary psychology, see a search using the words work evolutionary
psychology on the Psychology Today website
In a worldview where the physical and the mental have split allegiances, what happens to
powerful religious and spiritual impulses which address the essential role of meaning in
our lives? Integral theorist Ken Wilber argues that when driven underground the basic
human need for transcendence comes out sideways, through compulsions to
accumulate possessions and stroke the ego.
World as Lover
Macy tells us that with this view, The world is beheld as a most intimate and gratifying
partner. In Hinduism we find some of the richest expressions of our erotic relationship
with the world. Desire plays a creative, world-manifesting role here, and its charge in
Hinduism pulses onward into Krishna worship, where devotional songs, or bhajans, draw
on the erotic yearnings of body and soul. . . . You feel yourself embraced in the primal
erotic play of life. This erotic affirmation of the phenomenal world is not limited to
Hinduism. Ancient Goddess religions, now being explored, carry it too, as do strains of
Sufism and the Kabbalah, and Christianity has its tradition of bridal mysticism.
Nineteenth-century Romantic poets like Blake, Wordsworth, and Shelley felt this erotic
affinity with the world, as did Walt Whitman in his body electric. The American
Transcendentalist Movement, with Emerson and Thoreau, also communed deeply with
the natural world to
Resources: See Eros and Aphrodite by Erin Sullivan at
discover that in doing so
they became more fully
Also see Eros and the Psychology of Worldviews by Eugene Webb
at http://faculty.washington.edu/ewebb/Eranos.html

World as Self
The world as lover is a complement to the world as self.
The subject (the lover) and object (the beloved) are no
Resource: For
longer separate, however. The world is seen as an
information on Paticca
Samutpada, see
interconnected whole and each individual a node in a
living web of life. The Hindu tradition offers the image
of Indras net, in which each node is a jewel that
shimmers with the reflection of all the other nodes. In
Buddhist thought we find this idea expressed in the concept of dependent origination,
or mutual causality. Today this perception also arises in the realms of sciencein general
systems theory, complexity science, and quantum physics. We are discovering that Mind

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is immanent in nature, extending far beyond the tiny spans illumined by our individual
conscious purpose.

How much do you operate within each of these worldviews?

How do you see these worldviews being expressed in the world around
Are each of these views equally valid?
What makes some more valid than others?

Author Robert Todd Carol cautions us about a common

misconception that what makes up a paradigm is relative and
subjective, and therefore purely personal with no connection or
test in reality. Some of those who think that creationism and
evolution are competing paradigms or theories make this
mistake. It may be true that all theories and beliefs are
subjective to some extent, but this does not mean that they are
all equally useful or probable, or even of the same type.

See Paradigm and
Paradigm Shift in
The Skeptics
Dictionary at

As the Worldview Turns

Today the Western Mind appears to be undergoing an epochal transformation, of a
magnitude perhaps comparable to any in our civilizations history. I believe we can
participate intelligently in that transformation only to the extent to which we are
historically informed. Richard Tarnas
A Brief History of the Western Worldview
According to historian and philosopher Richard Tarnas, the West has moved through
three major phases in its 2000-year history, in which distinct overarching worldviews
prevailed: the Classical Worldview, the Pre-Modern or Medieval Worldview, and the
mechanistic Modern Worldview.
Classical ParadigmAge of Gods and Oracles
Ancient Greek worldview. Knowledge is delivered from the gods via oracles.
Meaning was bestowed by the gods. Beginning with the pre-Socratic philosophers
and followed by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Greek philosophy turns away from
gods and oracles and increasingly looks to nature and the power of reason to
reveal the nature of reality.
Pre-Modern ParadigmAge of Faith/Superstition
Medieval worldview. Knowledge is derived from authority; meaning is derived
from sympathies between things, as in the Hermetic doctrine of as above, so

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Modern ParadigmAge of Reason/Empiricism/Science

Beginning in the seventeenth century through today. Age of analysis,
reductionism, individualism, and mechanism. Meaning is projected by the human
mind onto nature. Mechanical causality is the only way things move or change.
The guiding metaphor is the machine. Time is linear.

Does this history represent progress?

If so, toward what?
What has been lost in the development of the Western worldview?
What has been gained?

Where Are We Now?

While modernity prevails as the dominant paradigm of the West, other worldviews exist
alongside it simultaneously. Sociologist Paul Ray, who has used survey research to
identify new movements within our society, maintains that three primary subcultures
exist today: the Traditionalists, the Modernists, and the Cultural Creatives.
Traditionalists are cultural conservatives who wish to preserve the pre-modern simplicity
of life. Ray also calls this group Heartlanders, who believe in a nostalgic image of return
to small town, religious America, corresponding to the period 1890 to 1930 . . . what they
believe are the good-old traditional American ways.
Modernists, says Ray, are an extension of the Enlightenment. This group promotes
aggressive change, material progress, and big-city ways. What is most distinctive about
this group is their belief in a technological economy that is reshaping the globe.
Cultural Creatives are so called that because they prefer to operate on the leading edge of
cultural change. Paul Ray says they have both person-centered and green (ecological)
values. They are concerned with psychology, spiritual life, self-actualization, and selfexpression. They like things foreign and exotic, enjoy mastering new ideas, advocate for
women's and minority issues, and support the notion of ecological sustainability.
According to Ray, bearers of the culture of Traditionalism, or the Heartlanders, make up
29 percent of todays population in the United States, or about 56 million adults.
Modernists compirse 47 percent of the population, or 88 million adults, and Cultural
Creatives comprise 24 percent of the adult population, or 44 million adults.
Resources: See The Rise of Integral Culture by Paul Ray at
For an interview with Paul Ray, see www.paraview.com/features/paul_ray.htm

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If its true, what are the implications of this data?

How does it change your sense of yourself?
What does it make possible?

Where Are We Going?

Worldviews are formed to solve problems. They change when existing solutions no
longer work and rising problems require new approaches. Sometimes the problems are
conceptualhow do we make sense of new information that cannot be interpreted within
our existing framework? At other times the problems are more practicala worldview
might lead to wars, mass extinctions, and a sense of alienation. Sometimes, as with
modernism, a worldview that solved some problems ends up creating others.
Trouble in Paradigm City
For the last 300 years modern society has relied primarily on scientific discovery to tell
us about the nature of reality. On the one hand, we have all benefitted enormously from
the technologies that science has made possible. On the other hand, many may have felt
uneasy when science cannot account for or explain our most significant personal
experiences. Many find a deepening mismatch between what they know from their own
experience and what they know from science.
Experiences such as out-of-body or near-death events, telepathy, clairvoyance or remote
viewing, and the powerful healing effects of intention and prayer are just some of the
anomalies that challenge the dominant scientific explanations for how the world works.
However, we are witnessing a remarkable convergence of discoveries on the frontiers of
science that appears to support age-old wisdom from perennial spiritual traditions. We
are learning, for example, from quantum physics about the ways certain aspects of reality
transcend our usual understanding of time and space, and we are learning from
neurosciences and consciousness studies remarkable connections between mind and
body. Phenomena such as quantum nonlocal interconnectedness and the power of mind
and emotions to affect the body (and other parts of the physical world) do not fit the
dominant story about how the world works.
Gradually, purely mechanistic views are likely to be replaced by the truly mind-boggling
revelations issuing from quantum physics, systems and complexity theories,
psychoneuroimmunology, and other mind-body studies in consciousness research. For
decades, news from these frontier sciences has been filtering through to the general
publicdue in part to consciousness-raising efforts from organizations such as the
Institute of Noetic Sciences.
The emerging story tells us the universe consists not of things but of possibilitiesthat
relationships and processes are more fundamental than substances. As theologian Thomas
Berry puts it, The world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. It is a

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world as lover and a world as selfa conscious, evolving universe, in which we

participate through our every thought and action. What the Bleep Do We Know!? has
touched a nerve because for many thousands of people it is the first public validation of
what they have privately known or suspected for many years: Reality is far more
mysterious than they have been taught. And at the core of this mystery is the creativity
and potency of consciousness.
Philosopher Duane Elgin puts it this way:
I believe that the most far-reaching trend of our times is an emerging shift in our shared
view of the universefrom thinking of it as dead to experiencing it as alive. In regarding
the universe as alive and ourselves as continuously sustained within that aliveness, we
see that we are intimately related to everything that exists. This insight . . . represents a
new way of looking at and relating to the world and overcomes the profound separation
that has marked our lives. (www.noetic.org/publications/review/issue54/main.cfm)
We may wonder why it is so difficult to accept new science and update our version of
reality. But worldviews on a mass level change slowly over time. Consider that we have
known for hundreds of years that the world is round and turning on its axis, yet we still
talk in terms of the sun setting over the horizon. Likewise, the discoveries of quantum
physicists are not recent. The theory was first developed over 70 years ago. And no
matter how well we think we understand the implications of atomic theory and
neuroscience, which tell us that matter is mostly full of empty space and that our brains
construct our perceptions of the world, the world still looks and feels very much like it
is out there, solid and reliable.
How can we come to know and embrace our new understandings of reality?

How the Bleep Do We Know What We Know?

What you cannot know in your body you can know nowhere else. The Upanishads
There is no use trying, said Alice. One can't believe impossible things. I dare say you
haven't had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
Lewis Carroll
We cant change our fundamental assumptions about the world without changing the way
we gain knowledge about it. Each worldview has a corresponding way of knowing the
world called an epistemology. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies
knowledge. It attempts to answer the basic question, What distinguishes true (adequate)
knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this question translates into
issues of scientific methodology: How can one develop theories or models that are better
than competing theories?
Stands to Reason

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The Wests bias toward rationalism and empiricism began with the Greeks. In Plato's
view, knowledge is merely an awareness of absolute universal ideas or forms, existing
independent of any subject trying to apprehend them. Though Aristotle puts more
emphasis on logical and empirical methods for gathering knowledge, he still accepts the
view that such knowledge is an apprehension of necessary and universal principles.
Following the Renaissance, two main epistemological positions dominated philosophy:
Empiricism, which sees knowledge as the product of sensory perception, and
Rationalism, which sees it as the product of rational reflection.
The scientific revolution provided even more exacting tools both intellectually and
technologically with which to probe and analyze the world. We were taught to suppress
our subjective experience so that the senses could gather data without hindrance or
Non-Rational Ways of Knowing
Other nonrational ways of knowingsuch as faith, intuition, spiritual insight, and bodybased wisdomhave been associated with earlier stages of cultural development and
therefore considered regressive.
Barbara Alice Mann, PhD, a noted author and speaker on Iroquoian history and culture,
writes in her book Iroquoian Woman: The Gantowisas (New York: Peter Lang, 2000.)
that ongoing Western scholarship portrays Iroquoian (and all Native) medicine as
magical thinking. . . . It is, however, Western bias, not empirical observation, that defines
Native medicine as childish superstition, spirits as figments of a muddled imagination,
and spirit work as fantasy. She speaks of Native American medicine as a mystic
potence that is not the equivalent of the Western concept of magic. This medicine deals
primarily in non-ordinary states of consciousness, which include the trance of the
medium as well as ceremonial states of reverence, during which ritual is served;
visionary states, in which the past or the future is glimpsed; far viewing, in which events
at a distant location are beheld; and out-of-body travel by ones spirit, usually in a Sky
Journey. All of these, she says, are real and valid ways of obtaining knowledge from the
Interestingly, in spite of itself, science has made many of its gains and discoveries from
these nonrational ways of knowing. The German chemist Kekule puzzled extensively
over the structure of a benzene molecule. One afternoon he dozed off and in a
hypnogogic state saw a whirling serpent biting its own tail. He awoke with the insight
that benzene atoms form the shape of a ring. In fact, the most prominent scientists who
laid the ground for modernityincluding Rene Descartes, James Clerk Maxwell, and
Nicola Teslaall gained inspiration for their discoveries through dreams and visions.
The cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific
research, said Einstein, who spoke of truths that one feels but cannot express. And
when asked how he knew a solution to a problem to be true, he replied that he felt it in
his muscles. Other scientists speak of truth that can be known through an aesthetic sense
that comes about when a problem is solved with elegance and symmetry.

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Women have traditionally been encouraged to receive knowledge in nontraditional ways.

In ancient Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Turkey, for example, women served as oracles or
sibyls, going into trance to reveal information about the past, present, and future. Kings
and generals sought out their advice because it was accurate and reliable, particularly in
places such as Delphi and Dodona in Greece and Cumae in Sicily. No one knows exactly
how these women had access to their knowledge, but ancient sources suggest they
achieved oracular states by inhaling special vapors or drinking certain waters from the
earth, chewing particular leaves or inhaling smoke from burned plants, or ingesting or
anointing themselves with special herbs or poultices.
While ancient women were said to be channeling the voice of divinities such as the earth
mother Gaia, the sky god Zeus, and the sun god Apollo, contemporary women continue
this tradition by claiming to channel wisdom from a host of disembodied beings who are
friends to humanity, with names such as Seth, Orin, Ramtha, the Pleiades, the Virgin
Mary, and Emmanuel.
In What the Bleep Do We Know!? JZ Knight channels a 35,000-year-old warrior named
Ramtha. Using an EEG, psychologists Ian Wickramasekera and Stanley Krippner, of the
Saybrook Graduate School, observed that while JZ Knight was channeling Ramtha, her
brainwave activity shifted to lower frequencies and her lower cerebellum appeared to be
operating her body. Such scientific findings are beginning to validate that some claims of
nonrational ways of knowing are grounded in observable effects. This kind of research
can help open modernist minds to more possibilities.
No single way of knowing is adequate for this vast and complex universe. Each has its
own power to know different facets of the universe. It takes all of our ways of knowing
working in concert rational empiricism, intuition, mystical awareness, and receptive
spirit to tune ourselves to such a vast and deep universe.
Resources: For more information on Barbara Alice Mann and her work on Native American
spirituality and ways of knowing, see http://www.english.utoledo.edu/faculty/barbaramann/
For more on the oracles at Delphi and Cumae, see, for example,
Test your own psychic ability at the Institute of Noetic Sciences psi arcade www.psiarcade.com
For information on The Implications of Alternative and Complementary Medicine for Science and the
Scientific Process," by Marilyn Schlitz, see http://www.sfms.org/sfm/sfm1003b.htm For scientific
research on psychic phenomena, visit the Institute of Noetic Sciences at www.noetic.org.

Can reality ever be fully known?

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In what context is it wise to trust science? Intuition? Instinct?

How does our way of knowing the world affect and limit what can be known?
How can we evaluate nonrational ways of knowing on their own terms?

How Do Paradigms Shift?

To change a major paradigm is to change our definition of what is possible.
Mark B. Woodhouse
We are at the threshold of a "great divide" in history. The future of life on the planet
arguably turns on what paradigm prevails. When Einstein said, You cannot solve a
problem from the same level in which it was created, he was referring to paradigms.
What is it that makes a paradigm shift possible?
Worldviews emerge to solve problems. For an emerging new worldview to take hold, the
majority of the population has to deeply understand, beyond abstract intellect, that its
current way of thinking is inadequate to solve the problems it faces. A new worldview
cannot take hold simply by suppressing the voices of those who disagree, or through
impassioned arguments.
We are being challenged to cultivate our capacities to combine rational and nonrational
ways of knowing, to increase the sensitivity of all our perception so that we can
apprehend more of the universe and participate in its processes more intimately. This
means there is no instruction manual for changing paradigms and no blueprint to follow.
Needing absolute answers may well be an artifact from outdated worldviews, while
becoming comfortable with uncertainty may be our path to a new one.
Is the paradigm shifting?
Paul Ray is optimistic that a new worldview is in the process of arriving. He claims that
the Cultural Creatives are a very large pool of people, 44 million, larger than any
comparable group at the birth of any previous societal revolutions. Ray believes that with
this group,
global communications and transportation systems are in place and developing rapidly;
advances in the new sciences of quantum physics, holistic biology, and complexity
theory (with their discoveries of nonlocality, ecological interdependence, and selforganizing systems) are already dismantling the old Modernist paradigm; in addition, a
host of new developments in humanistic-transpersonal psychology, eco-sciences, and
feminism, as well as a burgeoning psychospiritual consciousness revolution, are all
broad social movements contributing to a Transmodern culture and a new kind of world.
The transformation is happening right in front of our eyes, right now in the last decade of
the twentieth century. In short, all the ingredients required to make a truly Integral
Culture are already with us.
Renowned sociologist Robert Bella sums it up for us:

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We may be seeing the beginnings of the reintegration of our culture, a new possibility
of the unity of consciousness. If so, it will not be on the basis of any new orthodoxy, either
religious or scientific. Such a new integration will be based on the rejection of all
univocal understandings of reality, of all identifications of one conception of reality with
reality itself. It will recognize the multiplicity of the human spirit and the necessity to
translate constantly between different scientific and imaginative vocabularies. It will
recognize the human proclivity to fall comfortably into some single literal interpretation
of the world and therefore the necessity to be continuously open to rebirth in a new
heaven and a new earth. It will recognize that in both science and religious culture all we
have finally are symbols, but that there is an enormous difference between the dead letter
and the living word.

When has your worldview been radically expanded or altered?

What made it possible?
What do you think is needed for the dominant paradigm to change?
What helps you live with uncertainty?

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Group Activities
Paradigm Party
(1) The group starts out making up a new worldview together by deciding together how
to fill in the blanks for the following sentences:
_________created the world.
Humans are on Earth because___________.
Our purpose in being here is to__________.
If we succeed, _____________happens.
If we fail, ____________ happens.
The good and bad things that happen on Earth are the consequence(s) of__________.
It is important for us to________ nature.
It is important for us to_________one another.
It is important for us to________the force that created the world.
(2) Now that you have your worldview, tell a story that expresses this paradigm by going
around the circle with each person taking a turn to add a short episode. The story will
reflect the worldview you have just created. The following structure might help you as
you create your story:
Who is the protagonist? What do they want? Whats in the way of their getting
what they want? Do they overcome the obstacle? If so, how? What is possible as a
Getting to Know You
Place an object in the middle of the circle. Take a few moments to be with it in these
different ways and notice how each one feels.
(1) Examine its physical propertiesmake a guess as to its exact weight, size, shape,
weight, texture, density, etc. Notice what that is like.
(2) Look at it with the awareness that it is not solid but mostly empty and pulsing in and
out of existence and in some way affecting and being affected by you. Notice what that is
(3) Sit with the object without labeling it, and without touching its edges, sense its
density. Sit with your full attention reaching into it until you feel your own body take on
some of its qualities. Notice what that is like.
(4) Be with the object noticing what it moves in you, what it makes you think and feel.
Write a short poem about it. Notice what that is like.
Share your experience with the group.
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Individual Activities
A World Full of Views
Everything we do and say is the expression of our beliefs about the world. Finding the
underlying beliefs can lead to insights and understanding.
As you go through the day, try to identify some of the assumptions that inform your own
and others actions. Be sure to include people you find objectionable. Ask yourself what
this person would have to believe in order to do, say, or be that way.
Expand your inquiry to include the assumptions held by other cultures and nations. What
would China, Sudan, the United States, Israel, or Palestine, for example, have to believe
in order to behave the way they are behaving?
Identifying Your Worldview
To get a better picture of your own worldview, try filling in the blanks of the following
_________created the world.
I am on Earth because___________.
My purpose in being here is to__________.
If I succeed, _____________happens.
If I fail, ____________ happens.
The good and bad things that happen on Earth are the consequence(s) of__________.
It is important for me to________ nature.
It is important for me to_________ other people.
It is important for me to_________the force that created the world.

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"Broad, wholesome, charitable views ... can not be acquired by vegetating in one's little
corner of the earth." Mark Twain
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled
high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must
think anew and act anew. Abraham Lincoln
There is only one admirable form of the imagination: the imagination that is so intense
that it creates a new reality, that it makes things happen. Sean O'Faolain
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.
That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.Martin
Luther King Jr.
Reality is the only word in the English language that should always be used in
quotes. Unknown
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for
Nature cannot be fooled. Richard Feynman
Einstein's space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh's sky. The glory of science is not
in a truth more absolute than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but in the act of creation itself.
The scientist's discoveries impose his own order on chaos, as the composer or painter
imposes his; an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is based on the
observer's frame of reference, which differs from period to period as a Rembrant nude
differs from a nude by Manet. Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as
they are certain, they do not refer to reality. Albert Einstein
Intuition is the source of scientific knowledge. Aristotle
"When a thing is new, people say: 'It is not true.' Later, when its truth becomes obvious,
they say: 'It is not important.' Finally, when its importance cannot be denied, they say:
'Anyway, it is not new.'" William James
Dear dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I
wonder if Ive been changed in the night. Let me think: was I the same when I got up this
morning? I almost remember feeling a little different. Lewis Carroll, Alices
Adventures in Wonderland

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Additional Resources
Berry, Thomas. Dream of the Earth. HarperCollins, 1993.
Brown, Harrison. The Challenge of Mans Future. MacMillan, 1954.
Conant, Jim, and Haugeland, John, eds. The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays
by Thomas Kuhn, 19701993. The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
De Quincey, Christian. Radical Knowing: Exploring Consciousness through
Relationship. Inner Traditions, 2005.
Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Ohio University Press, 1993.
Harman, Willis. Global Mind Change. Warner Books, 1988.
Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The University of Chicago
Press, 1996.
Laszlo, Ervin. Science and the Akashic Field. Inner Traditions, 2004.
Macy, Joanna. World as Lover, World as Self. Parallax Press, 1991.
Polak, Fred. The Image of the Future. Oceana Publications, 1961.
Schlitz, M., Amorok, T., Micozzi, M. Consciousness and Healing. Elsevier Press, 2005.
Sorokin, Pitirim. The Crisis of Our Age. E. P. Dutton, 1941.
Sorokin, Pitirim. Social and Cultural Dynamics. Bedminster Press, 1993.
Swimme, Brian. The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story. Orbis,
Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind. Harmony Books, 1991.
Woodhouse, Mark. Paradigm Wars: Worldviews for a New Age. Frog Ltd., 1996.

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Quantum Reality
Things are not as they appear to be. Nor are they otherwise.
The Lankavatara Sutra
Quantum physics tells us the world is very big and very mysterious. Mechanism is not
the answer, but Im not going to tell you what is.
from What the Bleep Do We Know!?
A basketball appears in ten places at once. Amanda sees herself through the eyes of
someone she has become. Time stands still, and particles become waves. What the Bleep
Do We Know!? invites us to bend our minds around the startling discoveries of quantum
physics and to entertain the possibility that things are not as they appear to be. As the
Lankavatara Sutra says, neither are they otherwise. In fact, according to quantum
physics, things are not even things, they are more like possibilities. According to
physicist Amit Goswami, Even the material world around usthe chairs, the tables, the
rooms, the carpet, camera includedall of these are nothing but possible movements of
consciousness. What are we to make of this? Those who are not shocked when they
first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it, notes quantum
physics pioneer Niels Bohr.
Before we can consider the implications of quantum mechanics, lets make sure we
understand the theory.

What Is Quantum Mechanics?

Quantum mechanics, the latest development in the scientific quest to understand the
nature of physical reality, is a precise mathematical description of the behavior of
fundamental particles. It has remained the preeminent scientific description of physical
reality for 70 years. So far all of its experimental predictions have been confirmed to
astounding degrees of accuracy.
To appreciate why quantum mechanics continues to astound and confound
scientists, it is necessary to understand a little about the historical development of
physical theories. Keeping in mind that this brief sketch oversimplifies a very long, rich
history, we may consider that physics as a science began when Isaac Newton and others
discovered that mathematics could accurately describe the observed world. Today the
Newtonian view of physics is referred to as classical physics; in essence, classical physics
is a mathematical formalism of common sense. It makes four basic assumptions about the
fabric of reality that correspond more or less to how the world appears to our senses.
These assumptions are reality, locality, causality, and continuity.
Reality refers to the assumption that the physical world is objectively real. That is, the
world exists independently of whether anyone is observing it, and it takes as self-evident

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that space and time exist in a fixed, absolute way. Locality refers to the idea that the only
way that objects can be influenced is through direct contact. In other words, unmediated
action at a distance is prohibited. Causality assumes that the arrow of time points only in
one direction, thus fixing cause-and-effect sequences to occur only in that order.
Continuity assumes that there are no discontinuous jumps in nature, that space and time
are smooth.
Classical physics developed rapidly with these assumptions, and classical ways of
regarding the world are still sufficient to explain large segments of the observable world,
including chemistry, biology, and the neurosciences. Classical physics got us to the moon
and back. It works for most things at the human scale. It is common sense.
Weird Science
But it does not describe the behavior of all observable outcomes, especially the way that
lightand, in general, electromagnetismworks. Depending on how you measure it,
light can display the properties of particles or waves. Particles are like billiard balls. They
are separate objects with specific locations in space, and they are hard in the sense that if
hurled at each other with great force, they tend to annihilate each other accompanied by
dazzling displays of energy. In contrast, waves are like undulations in water. They are not
localized but spread out, and they are soft in that they can interact without destroying
each other. The wave-like characteristic also gives rise to the idea of quantum
superposition, which means the object is in a mixture of all possible states. This
indeterminate, mixed condition is radically different than the objects we are familiar with.
Everyday objects exist only in definite states. Mixed states can include many objects, all
coexisting, or entangled, together.
How is it possible for the fabric of reality to be both waves and particles at the same
time? In the first few decades of the twentieth century, a new theory, Quantum
Mechanics, was developed to account for the wave-particle nature of light and matter.
This theory was not just applicable to describing elementary particles in exotic
conditions, but provided a better way of describing the nature of physical reality itself.
Einsteins Theory of Relativity also altered the Newtonian view of the fabric of reality,
by showing how basic concepts like mass, energy, space, and time are related. Relativity
is not just applicable to cosmological domains or to objects at close to light-speeds, but
refers to the basic structure of the fabric of reality. In sum, modern physics tells us that
the world of common sense reveals only a special, limited portion of a much larger and
stranger fabric of reality.
The Basics
Wave-Particle CoExistence
Electrons can behave as both particles and waves. As waves, electrons have no precise
location but exist as probability fields. As particles, the probability field collapses into
a solid object in a particular place and time. Unmeasured or unobserved electrons behave
in a different manner from measured ones. When they are not measured, electrons are

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waves. When they are observed, they become particles. The world is ultimately
constructed out of of elementary particles that behave in this curious way.
Who or what is the observer that determines the location of the particle?
Is there an ultimate observer?
Can we be conscious of that observer?
What do you think you would see if you looked through the eyes of the
ultimate observer?

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

In classical physics, all of an objects attributes are in principle accessible to
measurement. Not so in quantum physics. You can measure a single electrons properties
accurately, but not without producing imprecision in some other quantum attribute.
Quantum properties always come in conjugate pairs. When two properties have this
special relationship, it is impossible to know about both of them at the same time with
complete precision. Heisenbergs Uncertainty (also know as the Indeterminacy) Principle
says that if you measure a partcles position accurately, you must sacrifice an accurate
knowledge of its momentum, and vice versa. A relationship of the Heisenberg kind holds
for all dynamic properties of elementary particles and it guarantees that any experiment
(involving the microscopic world) will contain some unknowns.

How are we affected by others observations?

Does every observer affect the world the same way?
What causes differences?

Bells Theorem and Non-Locality

Local reality is the reality that is governed by the laws of classical physics. In a local
reality, influences cannot travel faster than the speed of light. In 1964 Irish physicist John
Stewart Bell showed that any model of reality compatible with quantum theory must be
nonlocal. For quantum physics to work, information must travel not just faster than light,
but instantaneously. Nonlocality suggests that everything in the universe is connected by
information that can appear anywhere else, instantaneously.

If everything in the universe is able to communicate instantaneously with

everything else, what establishes which information we receive?
What are the implications of nonlocality on how we can know the world?
How would this change our lives?

The new theories systematically challenged all of the assumptions of classical physics:

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Reality faded away like the Cheshire cat because we now know that fundamental
properties of the physical world are not fixed; the world changes in subtle ways
depending on how we wish to observe it. The objects we encounter in everyday life do
not ordinarily exhibit obvious quantum effects because the strangeness of the
microscopic world is effectively smoothed out through innumerable interactions with the
environment. Indeed, classical descriptions of nature are often good enough for mundane
purposes. But those descriptions are an approximation of a more fundamental quantum
world, leaving open the possibility that some aspects of observation may subtly persist
even into classical domains.
Locality was replaced with nonlocality, the idea that objects that are apparently separate
are actually connected instantaneously through space-time. With nonlocality it is no
longer true that unmediated action at a distance is not possible. In fact, such actions are
Causality has dissolved because the fixed arrow of time is now known to be a persistent
illusion, a misapprehension sustained by the classical assumptions of an absolute space
and time. We now know that sequences of events depend on the perspectives (technically
called the frame of reference) of the observers.
Continuity has faded away because we now know that there are some discontinuities in
the fabric of reality. Space and time are neither smooth nor contiguous.

When has your experience of reality been radically altered, and how?
How did the experience affect you?
What would it be like to feel quantum physics through the senses, as well
as understanding it?
What are the implications?

Practice: Look around you. Imagine that what you are seeing is just the tip of the
iceberg, a special limited portion of a larger fabric of reality. Look where there appears
to be nothing and imagine that this space is teaming with possibilities. Look where there
appears to be something and imagine that what appears solid is mostly space. Feel your
hands. Imagine them on the quantum level, particle/waves flashing in and out of existence.
Consider how our hands are communicating in quantum language with the rest of the
universe. What do you notice?
What Does It Mean?
What does the phrase we know mean? It means that theoretical predictions were made,
based on mathematical models, and then repeatedly demonstrated in experiments. If the
universe behaves according to the theories, then we are justified in believing that
common sense is indeed a special, limited perspective of a much grander universe.

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The portrait of reality painted by relativity and quantum mechanics is so far from
common sense that it raises problems of interpretation. The mathematics of the theories
are precise, and the predictions work fantastically well. But translating mathematics into
human terms, especially for quantum mechanics, has remained exceedingly difficult.
The perplexing implications of quantum mechanics were greeted with shock and awe as
scientists who developed it began to seriously consider its implications. Many physicists
today believe that a proper explanation of reality in light of quantum mechanics and
reliability science fiction has familiarized us with ideas like starship warp drives
requires radical revisions of one or more common-sense assumptions. And there are both
theoretical and experimental reasons to believe that regarding reality, locality, causality
or continuity, either one, several, or all of these are incorrect.
Given the continuing confusions in interpreting quantum mechanics, some physicists
refuse to accept the idea that reality can possibly be so perplexing, convoluted, or
improbablecompared to common sense, that is. And so they continue to believe, as did
Einstein, that quantum mechanics must be incomplete and that once fixed it will be
found that the classical assumptions are correct after all, and then all the quantum
weirdness will go away. Outside of quantum physics, there are a few scientists and the
occasional philosopher who worry about such things, but most of us do not spend much
time thinking about quantum mechanics at all. If we do, we assume it has no relevance to
our particular interests. This is understandable and in most cases perfectly fine for
practical purposes. But when it comes to understanding the nature of reality, it is useful to
keep in mind that quantum mechanics describes the fundamental building blocks of
nature, and the classical world is composed of those blocks too, whether we observe them
or not.
The competing interpretations of quantum mechanics differ principally on which of the
common-sense assumptions one is comfortable in giving up. Some of the more widely
known interpretations of quantum mechanics include the Copenhagen Interpretation,
Wholeness, Many Worlds, NeoRealism, and, as promoted by the What the Bleep? film,
Consciousness Creates Reality.
--Copenhagen Interpretation This is the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics,
promoted by Danish physicist Niels Bohr (thus the reference to Copenhagen, where
Bohrs institute is located). In an overly simplified form, it asserts that there is no
ultimately knowable reality. In a sense, this interpretation may be thought of as a dont
askdont tell approach that allows quantum mechanics to be used without having to
worry about what it means. According to Bohr, it means nothing, at least not in ordinary
human terms.
Wholeness Einsteins protege David Bohm maintained that quantum mechanics reveals
that reality is an undivided whole in which everything is connected in a deep way,
transcending the ordinary limits of space and time.

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Many Worlds Physicist Hugh Everett proposed that when a quantum measurement is
performed, every possible outcome will actualize. But in the process of actualizing, the
universe will split into as many versions of itself as needed to accommodate all possible
measurement results. Then each of the resulting universes is actually a separate universe.
Popular television shows like Sliders and a few scenes in What the Bleep? capitalize on
these ideas.
Quantum Logic This interpretation says that perhaps quantum mechanics is puzzling
because our common sense assumptions about logic break down in the quantum realm.
Mathematician John von Neumann developed a wave logic that could account for some
of the puzzles of quantum theory without completely abandoning classical concepts.
Concepts in quantum logic have been vigorously pursued by philosophers.
NeoRealism This was the position led by Einstein, who refused to accept any
interpretation, including the Copenhagen Interpretation, asserting that common sense
reality does not exist. The neorealists propose that reality consists of objects familiar to
classical physics, and thus the paradoxes of quantum mechanics reveal the presence of
flaws in the theory. This view is also known as the hidden variable interpretation of
quantum mechanics, which assumes that once we discover all the missing factors the
paradoxes will go away.
Consciousness Creates Reality This interpretation pushes to the extreme the idea that
the act of measurement, or possibly even human consciousness, is associated with the
formation of reality. This provides the act of observation an especially privileged role of
collapsing the possible into the actual. Many mainstream physicists regard this
interpretation as little more than wishful New Age thinking, but not all. A few physicists
have embraced this view and have developed descriptive variations of quantum theory
that do accommodate such ideas.

Which interpretation appeals to you the most?

How would you elaborate on it?
Do you have another possible interpretation?
What are the implications of each of these interpretations on the world?
How would each of these interpretations affect your life?
What is your basis for deciding which interpretation to adopt?

It should be emphasized that at present no one fully understands quantum mechanics.

And thus there is no clear authority on which interpretation is more accurate.
Experimental Tests of Mind Meeting Matter
One approach to gaining some leverage on which quantum reality may be closer to truth
is to consider frequently reported anomalies that are not well accounted for by classical
physics but might be by quantum physics. In particular, psychic and mystical experiences
have been reported throughout history and in all cultures. Laboratory experiments

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attempting to demonstrate psychic effects have been conducted since the late nineteenth
century. These efforts continue today, including at the Institute of Noetic Sciences
Consciousness Research Lab.
The cumulative evidence from the discipline of parapsychology strongly suggests that
some psychic phenomena do exist. Many scientists assume that such research consists of
ghostbusting by dubiously credentially paranormal investigators, as this is how the
media tends to portray parapsychology. But in fact there is a long and distinguished
history of academic scientists who have seriously investigated these phenomena and
published their results in peer-reviewed journals. When this body of data is assessed
without prejudice, there is strong evidence that we can gain information without the use
of the ordinary senses, unbound by the usual constraints of space and time. The evidence
remains controversial because these effects are impossible under the rules of classical
physics. But the space-time flexibility, nonlocality, and acausal connections described by
quantum physics do allow for such phenomena.
Thus the data of parapsychology provide a new perspective
from which to reinterpret the various quantum realities.
information on the
Bohms wholeness interpretation, in which everything is
science of
ultimately interconnected with everything else, seems
parapsychology, see
particularly compatible with psychic phenomena. Imagine
that at some deep level of reality, our brains are in intimate
communion with the entire universe as Bohms interpretation proposes. If this were true,
then what might it feel like on an experiential level? You might occasionally get glimpses
of information about other peoples minds, distant objects, the future, or the past. You
would gain this information not through the ordinary senses and not because signals from
other minds and objects somehow traveled to your brain, but because your brain is
already coexistent with other peoples minds, distant
Resource: For more
objects, and everything else. To navigate this psychic
information on developing
space, you would focus your attention inward rather than
intuition go to:
outward. This proposal is supported by the role of
attentional focusing in meditation practice, which has long
and www.psiarcade.com For an
been associated with the development of spontaneous
interview with Francis
Vaughan, author of Awakening
psychic and mystical experiences. From this perspective
Intuition see
psychic experiences may be reinterpreted not as
mysterious powers of the mind but as momentary
glimpses of quantum wholeness, the fabric of reality itself.
Resource: For more

At the Institute of Noetic Sciences, we have been studying the relationship between the
mind and the quantum world. One type of experiment uses a sensitive optical apparatus
to measure whether mental intention interacts directly with the wave/particle
Practice: With a friend, close your eyes and sit quietly, focusing your attention on an
object until your mind becomes relatively still. With eyes still closed, Partner A thinks of an
event or image that is potent and that can be held in vivid awareness. Partner B just notices any
38 of
impressions or images that come to mind and
them down. Then Partner A chooses
another image. Repeat three times and trade roles. Then check your answers against the actual
image. What do you notice?

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characteristics of photons. Another uses an electronic random number generator based on

the direction that photons take upon hitting a half-silvered mirror; this setup detects
whether the mind can influence the photons decision about which path to travel. These
experiments continue a legacy of a half-century of research by many scientists around the
world who have explored the role of mind in the physical world. Overall this body of
research suggests that mind does interact with matter to a small degree, but so far no
simple explanatory model has been developed that clearly explains how this happens.
The answer may well lie in an improved understanding of the quantum realities.
Science and Mysticism
Does quantum mechanics help us to understand consciousness? How does it inform our
understanding of the spiritual dimensions of our experience? We must remember in our
attempts to address these questions that confusion can arise when we mix metaphors with
mathematics. There are clearly areas of commonality between mystical experiences of
unity and what physicists describe as the quantum field. Still, the leaders of quantum
mechanicsincluding Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrodingerrejected
the idea that physics and mysticism were describing the same phenomena. In the words
of Max Planck, efforts to bring them together are founded on a misunderstanding or,
more precisely, on a confusion of the images of religion with scientific statements.
Needless to say, the result makes no sense at all.
However, it does makes sense to seek a reconciliation between science and spirituality.
As noted by Tom Huston in his review of What the Bleep? for What Is Enlightenment?
magazine ("http://www.wie.org/j27/what-the-bleep.asp"):
In our postmodern and scientific age, what is the most obvious direction for a spiritually
seeking soul to turn in search of Truth (with a capital T) after traditional mythic religion
has been seen through and left behind? Why, its toward science, surely, with its claim to
universal truth and its mathematical certainty to ten decimal places about the inner logic
of space and time. Having our spiritual beliefs backed by science lends them some degree
of legitimacy, however tenuous the connection. Moreover, it seems to make those beliefs
more easily defensible against the preying guards of scientific authoritythat is, the
skeptics and scientific materialists of our eraboth when encountering such adversaries
in the world at large and when the same materialist doubts arise in our own minds. . . .
That we should even feel the need to overcome the doubt of the scientific materialist
worldview indicates how all-pervasive it actually is, and how thoroughly steeped in it
most of us are.

How is our worldview shaped by scientific assumptions?

How do you treat knowledge that cannot be proven scientifically?
How do you know something is true?

We need not force a scientific explanation onto intuitive insights into the connections
between science and spirit. We can let our intuitions and spiritual insights stand and be
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evaluated on their own terms, for their beauty and their power to inspire and stir a feeling
of deep accord between ourselves and the world. As British physicist Sir Arthur
Eddington put it a century ago:
In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning
towards God, the soul grows upward and finds the fulfillment of something implanted in
its nature. . . . The pursuit of science [also] springs from a striving which the mind is
impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual
pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and
the purpose surging in our nature responds. The Nature of the Physical World
Quantum physics, with its startling revelations and freakish discoveries, has successfully
awakened the world from what William Blake called Newtons slumber. We can no
longer look at a world that appears real, local, consistent, and causal, and believe with
full conviction that we are perceiving the whole of reality. Nor can we say that we know
what reality we are perceiving. Until more secrets are revealed, perhaps all we can say is
What the bleep do we know?

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Additional Dialogue
What do the discoveries of quantum physics spark in you?

Can you imagine a world in which objects do not have intrinsic

How much of reality do you think exists separate from our perception of

How much does our method of questioning nature influence the answers nature gives to
our questions?
How would it change your life if you experienced reality as an open-ended conversation
or dialogue?
If the world is the result of a participatory interplay between ourselves and nature, to
what extent do you think reality is arbitrary?
Quantum physics is a physics of possibilities...
Who chooses from these possibilities to give us the actual event of experience?
How do you think in terms of possibilities?
How do you think without having objects of thought?
Making it personal...
Can you think of a time in your life when your experience was extended beyond its
previous range, revealing that your view of the world was, in some sense, an illusion?
If the strange properties of quantum theory are only observable on the atomic scale, to
what extent do you think quantum theory is relevant to your ordinary experience?

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Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly
have understood it. Niels Bohr
The ontology of materialism rested upon the illusion that the kind of existence, the direct
actuality of the world around us, can be extrapolated into the atomic range. This
extrapolation is impossible, however. Werner Heisenberg
The smallest units of matter are, in fact, not physical objects in the ordinary sense of the
word; they are forms, structures orin Plato's senseIdeas, which can be
unambiguously spoken of only in the language of mathematics. Werner Heisenberg
We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to
our method of questioning. Werner Heisenberg
Observation plays a decisive role in the event and . . . the reality varies, depending upon
whether we observe it or not. Werner Heisenberg
Useful as it is under everyday circumstances to say that the world exists out there
independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld. J. A. Wheeler
"I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics. Do not keep saying
to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ' But how can it be like that?' because you will go
'down the drain' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows
how it can be like that." -- Richard Feynman

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Additional Resources
Davies, P. C. W. The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum
Physics. Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Feynman, Richard. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. Princeton University
Press, 1985.
Greene, Brian. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest
for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time : The Updated and Expanded Tenth
Anniversary Edition. Bantam, 1998.
Heisenberg, Werner. Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. Harper
and Row, 1958.
Heisenberg, Werner. Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations. Harper and
Row, 1971.
Herbert, Nick. Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics. Anchor Books, 1987.
McFarlane, Thomas. The Illusion of Materialism: How Quantum Physics Contradicts the
Belief in an Objective World Existing Independent of Observation. Center Voice: The
Newsletter of the Center for Sacred Sciences, Summer-Fall 1999.
Zukav, Gary. The Dancing Wu Li Masters. Bantam Books, 1990.

Heisenberg and Uncertainty: A Web Exhibit
American Institute of Physics
Measurement in Quantum Mechanics: Frequently Asked Questions
edited by Paul Budnik
The Particle Adventure: An interactive tour of fundamental particles and forces
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Discussions with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics

Niels Bohr (1949)
The History of Quantum Theory
Werner Heisenberg (1958)
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory
Werner Heisenberg (1958)
The Illusion of Materialism
by Thomas J. McFarlane
Hyperlinks for General Information on Quantum Mechanics:

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Creating Our Days

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they
are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on
in this world are the people who get up and look for the
circumstances that they want, and if they can't find them,
make them. - George Bernard Shaw

What would it mean if the thoughts we have when we start our day actually affect what
happens without our having to do anything about it? What if all thoughts, conscious or
not, influence the world? Would we start the day yelling at our children? Dashing out the
door? Making to do lists? How would it change our lives?
While the theoretical explanations for mind-matter interaction effects are not yet
conclusive, many of us intuitively feel the power of intention. In the film What the Bleep
Do We Know!? Joe Dispenza describes his practice of consciously creating his day:
I wake up in the morning, and I consciously create my day the way I want it to
happen. Sometimesit takes me a little bit to settle down, and get towhere I
am actually intentionally creating my day[then throughout the day] out of
nowhere, little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know they are the
process or the result of my creation.
Were consciously, from a spiritual standpoint, throwing in the idea that our
thoughts can affect our reality or affect our life.
I have this little pactI say, Im taking this time to create my day and Im
infecting the Quantum Field. Now, if it is a fact, that the observers watching me
the whole time that I am doing this, and there is this spiritual aspect to myself,
then show me a sign today that you paid attention to any one of these things that
I created. Bring them in a way that I wont expect, so Im surprised at my ability
to be able to experience these things and make it so I have no doubt that its come
from you. And so, I live my life all day long thinking about being a geniusand
as I do that, during parts of the day, Ill have thoughts that are so amazing, that
cause a chill in my physical body, that have come from nowhere.
How do we infect the quantum field so that inexplicable things happen that are in
alignment with our intentions? How can we indeed create our days? First, lets find out
what science and consciousness researchers have to tell us about intention and the extent
of our capacity to shape our lives.

Practice: Take a moment to set an intention for your time exploring the ideas and
practices in this guide. If youre in a study group, go around the circle sharing your
intention with the whole group. You can clarify your intention by reflecting on the
following questions: What draws you to this exploration? What do you want to get out of
it? Why does it matter to you?
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The Power of Intention

How do our intentions shape our lives? Intentions continuously affect the world by
guiding our actions. You intend to mow the lawn, eventually you mow the lawn, and the
lawn is physically changed. So the real mystery is not whether intentions influence the
world indirectly, but whether the human mind influences the physical world by an act of
intention directly--without physical contact of any sort.
Intention is a long-standing puzzle in the study of human consciousness. Operationally
defined, intention involves directing the mind, with purpose and efficacy, toward some
object or outcome. Intention represents both challenges and opportunities for deepening
our understanding of how we might create our days. Indeed, it draws our focus to some of
the most interesting and perplexing questions about the connections among mind, body
and spirit--leading us to explore the influence of consciousness both directly and
indirectly on individual and collective well-being.
We can speak of three key areas of research on intention:
1. Self-directed intention. How our intentions, particularly visualizations, influence
our bodies and minds. This area of research includes the neuroscience and
biochemistry of emotions, which we explored in the chapter, Healing the Past.
2. Intentions and our interactions with the world. How our intentions influence
others through direct or indirect communication. This area explores the possibility
that the expectations of others may actually influence our health and well-being.
3. Transpersonal intention. Ways in which our intentions might influence others
and the world through nonphysical and nonsensory means, for example, as
reported claims of distant healing, intercessory prayer, or mind over matter. This
area challenges core precepts of the Newtonian worldviews assumption of
Self-Directed intention
I never hit a shot, Jack Nicklaus writes in Golf My Way, without having a very sharp,
in-focus picture of it in my head. For Lee Evans, four-hundred-meter Olympic champion
and world-record holder, success in the 1968 Olympics involved visualizing every stride
of the race, correcting weaknesses in every step I took. Body builder, and current
Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger claims that when he has an image of a
particular muscle while doing a pump, the benefit to that muscle is ten times that of one
done when his mind is drifting.
Whats going on here? Top-flight athletes daydreaming between practice sessions? Not at
all. These are athletes who have discovered, often quite accidentally, the validity of
psychologist and champion body builder Charles Garfields maxim for athletic success:
Once the physical training is done, the difference between winning and not winning is in

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your head. Since the publication thirty years ago of W. Timothy Gallweys The Inner
Game of Tennis, in fact, more and more professional competitors and weekend jocks
alike are entertaining the possibility that the mind is the playing field on which the real
game takes places. There is a growing consensus that the next breakthroughs in athletic
performance will come not so much from more muscle bulk and skeletal strength as from
a skillful combination of physical training and the use of such largely neglected powers
of the mind as concentration, meditation, visualization, and inner sensing.
Researchers have been exploring what might be called the mental game of fitness for
many decades, and coming up with provocative findings. A 1946 study of suggestion and
hypnosis by M. B. Arnold was among the first to suggest what modern-day physiologists
now take for granted: that if one imagines throwing darts, the result is a small but
measurable contraction of the muscles used in actually throwing darts. And in a 1932
study of the electrophysiology of mental activities, Edmund Jacobson found that using a
combination of visual imagery and internal feeling (proprioception), as opposed to only
visual imagery, produced greater muscle action during imagined weight lifting.
Intention and Interactions with the World
As we know just by looking around the world outside
our front door, there are a lot of other conscious beings
participating in this creative process along with us. The
philosopher Alfred North Whitehead put forward the
view that everything in the universe, from particles to
planets alike, is in constant contact, exerting varying
degrees of creative influence on each other.

Resource: For further

description of Whiteheads
Process Philosophy read the
article, What the Butterfly
Knows, by Keith
Thompson. In Noetic
Sciences Review #52, June August 2000.

Social creativity researchers Alfonso Montuori and

Ronald Pursuer (1996) describe additional factors that
influence our creativity. These include the environment, economic and educational
resources, cultural forces, political and organizational contexts, biological factors,
psychological and personality issues, and interpersonal relationships. The psychologist
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi encourages us to recognize the complex nature of creativity and
the need to adopt a new model in which the person is a part of a system of mutual
influences (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988, 336). We are not exclusively responsible for the
outcome of our intentions, but we are part of a larger chorus of creativity that is
constantly exerting influences on what manifests around us. We are participants in a
creative process that is both originating within our own consciousness and interrelated to
the whole universe.
How does intention that is communicated through interactions with others influence our
minds and bodies? Interesting studies done on placebos provide clues. Traditionally,
researchers use placebos in clinical tests to investigate the effects of a drug. As an inert
substance, the placebo is not intended to have any benefit, but instead to provide a
baseline by which to measure the effectiveness of the active drug. However, placebos do
prove to have beneficial effects. How is this possible? What is the power of suggestion?

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Every interaction between healthcare providers and their clients has at least some
component of suggestion built in. Whether we know it or not, we are listening to and
interpreting the messages our healthcare provider unconsciously conveys through every
gesture and vocal tone, facial expression and innuendo. In other words, we pick up on the
practitioners unconscious messages. These signals affect our own beliefs about our
health, and our beliefs inform our healing as we have already seen.
This placebo effect, the powerful influence of a healers intentions on the patient
puzzles and disturbs many researchers. After all, it seems to prevent them from collecting
reliable data on real medicine. But, these placebos may in fact turn out to be a key to
our understanding the link between intention, belief, expectation and bodily responses.
While more research needs to be done to examine the nature of factors like rapport,
anticipation and hope in everyday life, there is research showing that long-term states of
distress, hopelessness and despair can cause serious disruptions to the healing process.
Resource: for reviews of the literature on the correlations between mind states and the
healing process, see Pert, Dreher and Ruff, 2005. The Psychosomatic Network: Foundations of
Mind-Body Medicine as well as Simonton-Atchley and Sherman, 2005 Psychological Aspects of
Mind-Body Medicine: Promises and Pitfalls from Research with Cancer Patients, both in
Consciousness and Healing by Schlitz, Amorok and Micozzi, Elsevier, 2005.

Transpersonal Intention at a Distance

Can all aspects of intention be explained by conventional biological, psychological and
social processes? Or can the human mind influence the physical world by an act of
intention directly that is, without physical contact of any sort? Does intentionality
require force as conventional physics dictates? Or is there something more to
consciousness than its physical properties? If intentionality is somehow causal rather
than merely caused, then how can it be included, even potentially, in our usual concept of
scientific laws? The field that speaks most directly to these questions is experimental
parapsychology (Radin, 1997; Broughton 1991.)
Parapsychology is the scientific study of anomalous mind-matter interactions, including
telepathy (mind to mind), clairvoyance (mind to object or event), precognition
(knowledge of future events), and psychokinesis (mind over matter). Most of the
scientific evidence for mind-matter interaction effects falls into two classes: Intention
directed at living systems and intention directed at inanimate systems.
Resource: There are several professional scientific communities studying distant
intention. These include the Parapsychological Association (www.parapsych.org) and the
Society for Scientific Exploration (www.scientificexploration.org). A training program on
parapsychology research will be held by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (www.noetic.org).
To test your own parapsychological abilities, visit a set of online psi games at

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Intention on Living Systems

In the former case, laboratory studies have been conducted to determine whether
intention might influence the growth of cell cultures, the structure of water, the rate of
wound healing in mice, the swimming activity of fish, activity in the human autonomic
nervous system, and the course of illness in human disease. The literature on these studies
is massive and uneven in quality, but overall it suggests
that intention can affect living systems to some degree.
Resource: For more
information on the IONS
A cautious assessment is that intention appears to
Distant Healing Project visit
weakly correlate (but perhaps not influence in the
physical sense of applying force) with changes in the
behavior of a wide range of living systems.
For example, a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2004
revealed that in independently replicated, rigorously controlled, double blind laboratory
experiments, the thoughts of one person had a measurable effect on the physiological
state of another person. The two people in these distant healing experiments were isolated
in soundproof and electromagnetically shielded chambers to exclude any ordinary signals
from passing between them. And yet, when a sending person directed calming or
activating thoughts at a receiving person, the receivers body complied in the desired
direction. There are as yet no well-accepted theoretical explanations for why this occurs,
but evidence that it does happen is becoming increasingly persuasive.
Dean Radin, author of The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic
Phenomena, (Harper Collins, 1997) is Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences,
where he and his colleagues study extended human capacities, including mind-matter
interactions. Radin worked with Princeton University psychologist Roger Nelson, who in
1998 spearheaded a worldwide collaboration among 75 researchers, to create the Global
Consciousness Project (GCP). The goal of the GCP is to determine whether world events
that tend to focus mass consciousness, like international sports events, natural disasters
and acts of terrorism, might influence devices that randomly generate numbers based on
quantum noise. The results of this experiment to date show strong overall evidence for
some form of mass mind-matter interaction. For example, during and immediately after
the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 on the World Trade Centers and on the
Russian school hostages in September 2004 in the city of Beslan, the random numbers
being generated world-wide became unusually orderly. (Electronic random number
generators are a kind of electronic coin-flipper.) On days with nothing particularly
interesting was happening, the random numbers reverted back to their expected random
behavior. The scientists are hypothesizing that events that cause mass mind to become
coherent affect physical matter itself. Scientists are beginning to catch up with
philosophers and mystics in acknowledging that the data do seem to show that mind and
matter are somehow linked in fundamental ways, and that maybe thoughts do affect the
world in subtle ways.
Resource: For more information on the GCP see http://noosphere.princeton.edu. This site
includes the full list of results, explanations, background materials and the raw data. You can
also visit http://www.noetic.org/publications/research/main.cfm?page=frontiers_58.htm.

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How does individual creative power interact with the rest of the world?
What if two or more people are using all their creative powers to manifest
opposing goals? What determines which one will prevail?
How can we tell the difference between our own thoughts and suggestion?

Intention and Physical Systems

In the case of inanimate systems, individual experiments have examined the effects of
intention on tossed dice, spinning coins, falling plastic balls, the movement of water
bubbles, the height of water fountains, fluctuations in tiny weights, alterations in weak
magnetic fields, and so on.
By far, the two largest databases of mind-matter interactions experiments have examined
whether intention can influence random physical systems. These experiments have
focused on the fall of tossed dice and the behavior of electronic random number
generators. The former involves tossing a die and wishing or intending for a certain die
face to land face-up. The latter involves wishing for
Resource: For
streams of random bits (zeros and ones) to become
information on studies with
biased so as to produce more ones than zeros, or vice
Random Number Generators
versa. In both cases, analyses of all known
experiments, numbering in the hundreds indicates that
under well-controlled laboratory conditions intention
For a longer list see
does weakly correlate with predictable changes in the
behavior of these random systems.
In one of the better-known, long-term studies at the Princeton Universitys Engineering
Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR for short, see http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/),
an individual presses a button, which causes an electronic circuit to generate 200 random
bits. The person first tries to aim high, meaning to get more 1s than 0s. On the second
button press, the person aims low, and on a third, has no aim to act as a control. After
12 years and hundreds of thousands of such button pressing by hundreds of participants,
the results were clear: The mind makes random numbers comply (weakly, and observed
so far only in statistical form) with its will. Whether this is due to an energetic effect, or a
more abstract probabilistic shift in the random numbers, or an even more exotic
explanation, is not yet certain. But the evidence that something interesting is going on is
exceedingly strong.
The message of water
Dr. Masaru Emotos research on the message of water is featured prominently in the
film. While this work is highly compelling, it is more an artistic metaphor of mind-matter
interaction effects than a scientific fact. As presented in Dr. Emotos books, it does not
yet meet the rigor of western scientific controls. It is unclear, for example, how many

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pictures were taken, the precise methods by which individual crystals were selected for
examination, and many other details, which would make this work acceptable to rigorous
experimental standards. Beyond these missing details, this work has not been published
in peer-reviewed scientific journals, so we cannot have confidence that scientists who are
knowledgeable about the chemistry of water (which is extremely complex) have agreed
that the effects presented are credible. Still, the work is highly intriguing and calls for
independent replications.

What exeriences have you had of having your thoughts effect what
happens at a distance?
Does Emotos research spark your imagination?
How do discoveries in science influence your life?
How would you live if you recognized the full power of your intention on
yourself and the world?

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not!

How do we know if were actually creating our day? What are the signs? More than
likely we look for evidence that the universe is listening and responding to our
thoughts. You open a book randomly and find the precise answer to a question you were
thinking about. You get an offer for a dream job the day you decide to quit your old job.
You think about a friend minutes before they call. As Joe Dispenza said, Out of
nowhere, little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know they are the process or the
result of my creation. What are the odds?
The noted Swiss psychotherapist, C. G. Jung was the first psychologist to explore
meaningful coincidences as events that defy the normal laws of causality. Jung was
unable to explain through the normal action of cause and effect the meaningful
coincidences he witnessed repeatedly, yet it seemed mistaken to reflexively write them
off as pure chance. For example, one of his patients dreamed that she received a golden
scarab, an insect that plays an important role in Egyptian mythology. Later, when she was
telling Jung the dream, he heard a gentle tapping at the window, and when he opened it,
in flew a beetle that was Switzerland's equivalent to the golden scarab. Catching it in his
hand and handing it to her, Jung said, "Here is your scarab." This uncanny event had the
effect of breaking through the rationalistic shell she had built around herself.
These kind of events led Jung to what he called synchronicity, or
meaningful coincidence. He reasoned that if these events were not
causally connected, perhaps they were the manifestations of some
non-causal connecting principle. He was encouraged along these lines
because it seemed that modern physics, in developing quantum
theory, had broken with causality. "'Causality is only one principle

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Resource: For more

information about Jung and
Synchronicity see JungianChristian Dialogue on the
Inner Explorations website

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and psychology essentially cannot be exhausted by causal methods only, Jung said,
because the mind (psyche) lives by aims as well" Jung added: "Psychic finality rests on
a pre-existent' meaning which becomes problematical only when it is an unconscious
arrangement. In that case we have to suppose a 'knowledge' prior to all consciousness."
(The Mystery of Matter Ch. 3 C.G. Jungs Synchronicityat
The science
The phenomenon of coincidence has begun to yield new scientific insights. Researchers
at the Institute of Noetic Sciences have explored the hypothesis that people unconsciously
know when theyre about to view upsetting photos. Dean Radin has found that electrical
resistance of viewers skin rises before they are about to view a disturbing image, but not
before a neutral image. This is not due to anticipation, because the effect is observed even
under double-blind conditions when the images
Resource: For more information go
are selected at random by a computer.
to Is There a Sixth Sense? in the Jul/Aug
Researchers at other centers have successfully
2000 issue of Psychology Today
replicated this effect, using both skin
conductance measures and heart rate variability.
Psychologist William Braud and others have noted that evidence from experiments in
parapsychology, as well as innumerable anecdotes about premonitions, implies that our
ordinary apprehension of time is incomplete. Braud suggests that under special
conditions, it may be possible to transcend time in the sense that intentions can work
backwards in time to influence the past.
At first blush this sounds ridiculous, for how can we change what has already happened?
But intention seems to be able to influence the initial seed moments or decisions upon
which events come into being in the first place, and then ultimately unfold. Thus, as we
are making dozens of minor decisions throughout the day, the possibility arises that our
future self may be influencing those decisions.
Something very close to this has been observed in repeated laboratory experiments by
first blindly recording streams of random bits generated by truly random number
generators; that is, no one observes the bits while they are being recorded. The next day,
the bits are played back while a person is asked to try to influence them (to get more 1s
say, than 0s) according to instructions generated that day, i.e. after the bits were already
recorded. These experiments indicate that prerecorded random bits conformed to
intentions produced in the future, or equivalently that the unobserved bits in the past
somehow conformed to intention generated in the present.
What is "really" happening in these experiments is unknown, because the random bits are
not observed until the experiment is already underway in the "future," but the results are
consistent enough to suggest that the past, present and future are, as Einstein showed,
genuinely relative. And not just for objects moving close to light-speed, but also in
human experience.

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As in most areas of frontier and pre-theoretic science, there are inklings that something
interesting and probably important is going on, and there is some scientifically valid data
to support these ideas. But at this point in our limited understanding, we should be wary
of strong claims like mind creates reality, as the scientific evidence so far does not
support such interpretations without qualifications. Gaining a thorough education on
controversial topics requires an understanding of experimental and statistical methods, an
appreciation of the epistemological assumptions and limitations of science, and the
ontological interpretations of reality from a modern physical perspective.
Resource: For more information about William Brauds studies see http://integralinquiry.com/cybrary.html For an article about retrocausal influences see William Brauds article
Transcending the Limits of Time http://integral-inquiry.com/docs/649/transcending.pdf. For a more
technical paper on the subject see William Brauds Wellness Implications of Retroactive Influence:
Exploring an Outrageous Hypothesis published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
2000; 6(1): pp. 37-48. http://integral-inquiry.com/docs/649/wellness.pdf

How have synchronicities impacted your life?

Do they exist even if we dont notice them?
What enables us to notice them?
What is the purpose of synchronicities?

Scientists Speak of Spirituality

Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon, and founder of the Institute of
Noetic Sciences, played a significant role in supporting the scientific investigation of
consciousness. The view he had of the Earth from space gave him deep insights into the
creative nature of consciousness in the universe:
In one moment I realized that this universe is intelligent. It is proceeding in a
direction and we have something to do with that direction. And that creative
spirit, the creative intent that has been the history of this planet, comes from
within us, and it is out thereit is all the same
Consciousness itself is what is fundamental and energy-matter is the product of
consciousness If we change our heads about who we areand can see
ourselves as creative, eternal beings creating physical experience, joined at that
level of existence we call consciousnessthen we start to see and create this
world that we live in quite differently.

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Resource: For more of Edgar Mitchells insights into the nature of consciousness read:
(http://www.ions.org/publications/archive.cfm) Mitchell, Edgar. As the Paradigm Shifts: Two
Decades of Consciousness Research, Noetic Sciences Review # 24, p.7, Winter 1992.

Mitchells mystical insights suggest that the creativity inherent in the universe is also
within us. His vision suggests that we may play a vital role as participants in the creative
process of the life of the whole Earth. Mitchell was not only a leader in humanitys
exploration of outer space, he has also played a key role in promoting a scientifically
oriented exploration of inner space. His insights into understanding our roles as cocreators within a creative cosmos were later echoed by the research of consciousness
theorists and physicists Peter Russell and Amit Goswami.
Peter Russell describes how our view of ourselves and the cosmos, and the relationship
between the two, takes on greater meaning when we experiment with a perspective in
which science and spirituality converge. At this pivot point, says Russell, divine intention
informs the physical manifestations. Likewise, Amit Goswami proposes that the
integration of the scientific with the spiritual enhances our ability to understand the
creative nature of the cosmos. The way these two scientists understand consciousness as
the fundamental basis of existence is echoed in the worlds spiritual traditions (as Allah,
Satguru, Spirit, the Godhead, the Omega Point, etc.). Goswami explains his personal
cosmology on how consciousness creates the material world:
The new science says that the material part of the world does existbut it is not the only
part of reality. [The whole view], the integration of the spiritual and the scientific, was
very important for me because I discovered the new way of doing science when I
discovered spirit. Spirit was the natural basis of my being. The material world of
quantum physics is just possibility. It is through the conversion of possibility into
actuality, that consciousness creates the manifest world The universe is self-aware, but
it is self-aware through us[with conscious human beings] there is then the possibility of
manifest creativitynow 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. The net upshot was the creativity ever since I have been
just blessed with ideas after ideas, and lots of problems have been solvedthe problem of
cognition, perception, biological evolution, mind-body healing.
Russell and Goswami suggest that the consciousness pervading the universe is
immensely creative, that it decisively informs the material world, and that, because we
are expressions of that consciousness, we have the opportunity to participate with it in
manifesting events in our daily lives.
Edgar Mitchell, Peter Russell and Amit Goswami offer a view of how the whole universe

Resource: To learn more about the convergence of science and spirituality go to Peter Russells
website http://www.peterussell.com and Amit Goswamis website http://twm.co.nz/goswam1.htm
For further information on the primacy of consciousness read more about the work of the leading
consciousness theorists Peter Russell and Amit Goswami http://www.peterussell.com and

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at its most fundamental level is consciousness, and that the consciousness that permeates
the universe dwells within each of us. There are many practices that can provide direct
experiences of this consciousness. The practice of meditation, for example, helps us quiet
the mind so we can see clearly into the nature of awareness. With a still mind, it becomes
possible to perceive that our true nature is awareness itself, the field from which all
phenomena arise and arise sustained. We can consciously draw from this dimension of
our nature that we share with all existence, direct it with intention, particularly when we
are in a meditative state.

How do we know if we are in touch with the cosmic consciousness?

When Amandas attitude shifts, she immediately receives a phone call
from her ex-husband. Have you noticed changes in your life that seemed
to come from a change of attitude or perspective?
How would your life be different if you felt the universe to be conscious
and purposive?

Practice: Signs of Intelligent Life: In the course of a day, entertain the possibility
that everything you see is permeated with consciousness. Practice sensing yourself connected
to this larger field of consciousness. Become an investigator looking for signs of intelligent
design permeating existence. What do you find? How do you feel as you look?

Some of these scientists views are not shared by mainstream physicists. Perhaps this is
because many mainstream physicists arent taught to worry about the deeper ontological
issues of what modern physics means. In addition, many people, including most quantum
physicists and neuroscientists, believe that the appearances of our daily lives, including
how our minds and bodies work, can be completely accounted for in classical physical
terms. Strict materialism, while justifiably denying metaphysical assumptions
unsupported by data, has its own share of assumptions that its adherents simply take for
granted. This includes systematically ignoring or excluding the evidence for psychic
phenomena and mystical experiences. The time has come to consider more integral views
of the world; perspectives that include tested data from all arenas of existence, inner and
outer, individual and collective.
A Note of Caution
Even though we can play an important role in what manifests in our lives, and we can
consciously create our days (or at least our reactions to daily events), there are limits to
how much responsibility we can claim for what actually happens in our daily lives. The
risk involved in not recognizing our potential as co-creators is that we become victims of
lifes circumstances. On the other hand, the risk of acknowledging our potential powers is
that we are likely to claim more than our individual share of credit for what happens in
our lives. How do we avoid the distortions that have us blaming ourselves for a
devastating illness or taking all the credit for our healing? How can we have an accurate
sense of our own powers?

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Father Bruno Barnhart, a Benedictine monk, writes:

There are moments when one suddenly realizes the sheer cliff that divides our certainty
from our uncertainty, the impossible coexistence within us of pure light and every degree
and quality of darkness and confusionour eyes ever so slowly begin to catch a glimpse,
to recognize our subtle shadows at work behind the scenes of our creative intentions
(1999, 77).
Unlike a light switch, which requires on or off but never both at once, we can choose
to develop our capacity to consciously create our days, while at the same time staying
grounded in a realistic perspective of our personal power in a world of teeming

How can we tell the difference between divine will and our individual will?
What are the limits, if any, to our creativity and power?
Can we really change the laws of physics? Learning to create more
effectively, what kind of responsibility do we have?

There are two ways in which we can think of creating our days. One is an internal
orientation we adjust our perceptual and behavioral filters to act in ways that make our
days seem better, but in any objective sense, they havent really changed. For example, a
positive change in attitude can make a day seem far better than a negative shift, but the
events of the day itself arent really so different. Or we can choose an external orientation
in which our thoughts literally influence the world so that events that might have
happened dont, and others that wouldnt have, do. The former requires a psychological
shift, while the latter requires a radical change in conventional views of reality.
Overall, the present scientific evidence suggests that mind does matter in ways that the
neurosciences cannot yet adequately explain. This is not the majority opinion within
mainstream science, yet it seems fair to note that resistance to such ideas is often couched
in theoretical objections rather than on the experimental observations themselves. There
is some theoretical support for mind-matter interactions within quantum physics, and it
suggests that mind and matter might be complementary in some fundamental way. But
there are many competing interpretations of what quantum theory actually means, so
hitching ones explanations about mind and matter to one or another flavor of quantum
reality is probably premature.
Yet, we do have uncanny experiences of creating our days, of our intention manifesting
in mysterious ways, laced with synchronicities. When this happens, there is a feeling that
we are in deep accord with the powers of the universe, participating in the unfolding
manifestation of this mystery, and that, as creators, our days are more worth living.

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Ultimately, it is up to each of us to choose the meaning system we want to live by. While
there are many more questions than answers, the very process of inquiring adds meaning
to our lives.
[F]rom the emptiness comes forth your dream, through the power of clear intention,
through the wisdom of equanimity and compassion, through right action that builds and
brings things to clear conclusion. These three building fires exist within each of us, as
spirals of energy ever moving, ever bringing forth the fruits of our intention and desire.
- Dhyani Ywahoo

Resource: Dhyani Ywahoo is a lineage holder of the medicine teachings of Wild Potato
clan of the Tsalagi (Cherokee) Nation. For information about Dhyani Ywahoo see

What is the most constructive use of our creativity?

How can we know that our individual aims are aligned with cosmic aims?
What is the impact of knowing that we are creating all the time, whether
consciously or not?
What role can difficult emotions like anger, grief, or jealousy play in our
practice of creating our day?

The Practice of Creating Your Day

How do we go about developing a practice for creating our days? It can be as simple as
the one Joe Dispenza created, taking a moment in the morning simply to reflect on what
you want to have manifest that day. Joe focused not on getting material or emotional
needs met, but on cultivating qualities that made him more aligned with the his deepest
values. Then he simply paid attention to the results. Here are some tips for making a more
intentional practice out of creating your day.
The foundation of a practice
Daily Practice. One of the keys to mastering any skill is developing a daily, disciplined
Pick a Place. Find a location where it is easy for you to have a period of uninterrupted
practice. Choose a setting that allows you to focus inwardly and quiet your mind.
Start-Up Ritual. Twyla Thorpe, the accomplished American choreographer, writes, it is
vital to establish some rituals---automatic but decisive patterns of behavior---at the
beginning of the creative processit eliminates the question, Why am I doing this?[It]
erases the question of whether or not I like it[The ritual is an] automatic call and

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response mechanism that anchors [the practice]. An organizational tool, a daily

ceremony, a repeatable kick-start. (15-16).

Make a commitment. Keep your commitment to yourself to show up, to be present and to
fully participate in your daily practice. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk
who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, teaches his students there are many
options in life, but it is not an option not to meditate. Your practice may not be
meditation, but whatever it is, your commitment is needed to sustain it.
For more information on Twyla Tharp see
For more information about the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh go to
Read more about Jon Kabat-Zinns work in training the mind in The Contemplative Mind in Society,
Noetic Sciences Review # 35, p.14, Autumn 1995, (http://www.ions.org/publications/archive.cfm).

Develop your skill. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditation teacher, writes, Transformational

changetakes a certain kind of inner work which involves training [the mind]. He
suggests that we turn our attention to developing what we may call inner technologies.
The untapped potential of the human mind for individual and collective creativity and
wisdom has to be intentionally cultivated.
Attention & Awareness. Pat Allen, artist and author, states, Achieving awareness of what
mind is creating is a goal of spiritual practice We create thoughts, feelings, and ideas
that construct our view of the world and our experience of reality. We become aware of
the stories we are living. When these are visible to us, we can choose whether or not they
serve us, whether or not we are creating the world we truly want. We open ourselves not
only to what mind is creating---often a frenetic monkey chase of judgments, guilts, and
circular thoughts---but to what mind can create---beauty, wisdom, meaning (168).
Opening the Heart. Western and Eastern spiritual traditions teach that love is at the heart
of every spiritual practice. William Tiller, Professor Emeritus of Stanford Universitys
Department of Materials Science, who appears in the film, has done extensive research
into conscious acts of creation and has distilled several key factors. He writes, Elevated
and loving human consciousness is a likely key
Resource: To read
requirementwe create our collective future via our
Tillers article on Conscious
thoughts, attitudes and actions [by] maintaining an uplifted
Acts of Creation: The
spiritual/mental/heart-state. It is the practitioners love,
Emergence of A New Physics.
compassion, devotion to service and intent that can elicit
Visit his website
the unseen assistance of the universe.

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Setting an Intention. Make a clear, simple statement of intention. Describing his

apprenticeship to a teacher named don Juan Genaro, anthropologist Carlos Castaneda
recalls: Don Juan always told me, Make a gesture. A gesture is nothing more than a
deliberate act undertaken for the power that comes from making a decision. You see,
the path of the heart is not a road of incessant introspection or mystical flight, but a way
of engaging the joys and sorrows of the world. In short, setting an intention is a way of
recalling your place in the larger community of existencedoing so in concrete ways that
are personal to your life.
Synchronicity. Cultivate awareness of synchronicities as a way of validating outcome.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, a prominent Jungian analyst states, to appreciate a synchronistic
event, one needs the ability to notean inner subjective
Resource: For more
state, a thought, feeling, vision, dream or premonition and
information about Jean Shinoda
to intuitively link it with a related outer eventand feel a
Bolen see
spontaneous emotional responseof chills up the spine,
or awe, or warmthIdeally, there should be no way to
account for the coincidence rationally or by pure chance. (45-46).
Design your practice
Designing how you go about creating your day can itself be a very creative personal
process. Think of it as a ritual. Here are some suggestions:
Create sacred space. Some choose to read a poem, light a candle, or play beautiful
music. Think of actions that have evoked a sense of communion with your deepest sense
of what brings meaning and value to your life.
Center yourself. This might have already happened just by creating sacred space. In
addition, you can incorporate meditation, chanting, singing, yoga, or any other practice
that calms your mind and makes you more sensitive and present.
Form Your Intention. Let your intention come in your own words from your own heart.
Let yourself get excited about the day ahead. Heres how one person characterized her
I choose to set my intentions for a day of flow and grace. I am in harmony with all I
encounter and connected to my higher wisdom. I intend to notice if and when that
connection weakens so I can reconnect in that moment. It is my intention that the people I
encounter feel appreciated and acknowledged.
Affirmations, Visualization, and Inner Sensing
We can create positive intentions through affirming statements. According to Dhyani
Ywahoo, affirmation (using positive statements about oneself and the world) enables
ones unmanifest potential to become real (p. 48). The idea is not to bury or mask
negativity, but to consciously open the mind and body simultaneously to life affirming

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thoughts and energy. Making your statements in the present tense as if they are a current
reality can have a more immediate and direct impact.
It can be powerful to add visualization to your affirmations. Ywahoo suggests we do the
Affirm, I realize my creative gifts, repeating this affirmation. . . three times.
And visualize in your minds eye the accomplishment of such tasks. For example,
if you wish to have better relationship with co-workers, visualize you and your
co-workers seated in a circle, surrounded by rose light, talking heart to heart and
accomplishing great works. It is important to believe your words and to cultivate
faith that you will manifest your sacred gifts in this lifetime. (p. 48).
Adding inner sensing to your visualizations creates an even stronger intention. Golfer
Bobby Jones claimed he often heard a melody on the golf course and that he would play
his best game if he used the music to give rhythm to his swing. Heres an example of a
visualization that incorporates inner sensing.
Close your eyes and see yourself as a child again, bounding out the front door on
a warm spring day. Imagine yourself taking a deep, full breath, seeing the sky,
feeling the fresh, clean air race through your body, then jumping down the steps
into the brand-new world of morning.
Practice paying attention to your thoughts when youre playing a favorite sport, when
youre sitting alone quietly, even when youre at a party. In the words of Henry James,
Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is ever lost. Practice being aware of even
the subtlest sensations: Can you feel your fingertips tingle as you wake in the morning?
Experiment with focusing your center of consciousness at different locations: in your
head, your toes, your heart. Follow dream images. See where they lead.
Whatever approach you take, the very intention of setting an intention is likely to have
begun the process. What matters is that you are living a more intentional life. Whether
there is compelling scientific evidence to prove that this process is having a direct impact
on the material world may not matter. Your life is likely to improve from the inside out.
Finally, be patient with yourself; progress in your practice cant be forced. But be
steadfast; improvement requires commitment. (Or, as the legendary golf champion Ben
Hogan once put it, The more I practice, the luckier I get.) Relax, focus, take yourself
lightly, be an explorer, and consider the words of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki-roshi: In
the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.

What inspires you about the possibility of creating your day?

How do you intend to act on this inspiration?
What do you want to incorporate into your practice?
What will you use to sustain you in your practice?

Practice: Design your practice. Collect and create inspirational readings, images, objects
and music for your practice. Set up the time 61
establish a special space for it. Be deliberate.
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Find the support you need to sustain your practice. Watch for the results. Keep practicing.

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The last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose one's own way.
~Viktor Frankl
Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind. Start each
day by affirming peaceful, contented and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be
pleasant and successful.
~Norman Vincent Peale
In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true.
~John Lilly
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
~George Bernard Shaw
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you've imagined.
~Henry David Thoreau
Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit to be encumbered
with your old nonsense.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
You create your opportunities by asking for them.
~Patty Hansen
To create means to bring into existence...creativity is, in essence, an internal process that
is going on within us, all the time.
~Peter Russell
The most powerful force behind creation is described as the need of the creative principle
to give love and receive love.
~Stanislav Grof
To know ourselves as this free, creative energy is to know the meaning of life in this
~Bruno Barnhart
When the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out
before her and enters into her own image.
~Meister Eckhart

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Additional Resources
Allen, Pat. Intention and Creativity: Art as Spiritual Practice. In The Soul of Creativity,
ed. Tona Pearce Myers, 168-176. New World Library, 1999.
Barnhart, Bruno. Second Simplicity, Paulist Press, 1999.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda. Synchronistic Knowing: Understanding Meaningful
Coincidence. In Inner Knowing: Consciousness, Creativity, Insight, Intuition, ed. Helen
Palmer, 43-50. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998.
Bohm, David, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge; Reissue edition, 2002.
Broughton, Richard S., Parapsychology: The Controversial Science, Ballantine Books; 1st
edition, 1991
Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics, Shambhala; 4th edition, 2000
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Society, Culture and Person: A Systems View of Creativity.- In The Nature of Creativity, ed. R. Sternberg, 336, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Combs, Allan, Holland, Mark, Synchronicity : Through the Eyes of Science, Myth and the
Trickster. Marlowe & Company; 2nd edition, 2000.
Cooper, Rabbi David. God is a Verb, Penguin Putnam, 1997.
Diaz, Adriana. Brush with God---Creativity as Practice and Prayer. In The Soul of
Creativity, ed. Tona Pearce Myers, 177-183. New World Library, 1999.
Goswami, Amit with Richard Reed and Maggie Goswami. The Self-Aware Universe:
How Consciousness Creates the Material World. Tarcher/Putnam, 1998.
Jung, Carl. Synchronicity, Bollingen Paperback Edition, 1973.
Nadeau, Robert, Kafatos, Menos, The Non-Local Universe: The New Physics and
Matters of the Mind, Oxford University Press; New Ed edition, 2001.
McTaggart, Lynn, The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, Perennial
Currents, 2003
Montuori, Alfonso and Ronald Purser. Social Creativity, v. 1, Hampton Press, 1996.

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Radin, Dean I. The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena,
HarperSanFrancisco; 1st edition, 1997.
Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Perennial; Reprint edition, 1992
Targ, Russell, Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of
Consciousness. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004
Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Ywahoo, Dhyani, Voices of Our Ancestors, Shambhala; 1st ed. Edition, 1987

IONS Distant Healing project website: http://www.ions.org/research/dh.cfm
Library of Exploratory Science website: http://www.c-far.net/litbase/litbase.jsp
Parapsychological Association website: http://www.parapsych.org/
Parapsychology Foundations Lyceum website: http://www.pflyceum.org/
Online articles
Braud, William, Distant Mental Influence: Its Contributions to Science, Healing, and
Human Interactions (part of the Studies in Consciousness Series, see
Mitchell, Edgar. As the Paradigm Shifts Two Decades of Consciousness Research,
Noetic Sciences Review # 24, p. 7 Winter 1992,
Schlitz, Marilyn. IONS Launches Consciousness and Causality Laboratory, Noetic
Sciences Review # 60, June - August 2002,
Tiller, William, Website Archives Subtle Energieshttp://www.tiller.org (Archived
Papers, accessed November 18, 2004).
Tiller, Website Archives Conscious Acts of Creation: The Emergence of A New
Physics. http://www.tiller.org (New Papers, accessed November 18, 2004).

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Healing the Past

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is
awaiting us. . . . The old skin has to be shed before the new one is to come. Joseph
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we
make the world." Buddha
In the film What the Bleep Do We Know!? Amanda (Marlee Matlin) has been struggling
with flashbacks, high anxiety, and low self-esteemnot to mention a hangover. The
morning after a particularly harrowing experience, she lashes out at her reflection in the
mirror. In the middle of her breakdown, she has an epiphany. It occurs to her that her
violent thoughts might be affecting the very structure of the cells in her body. This
awareness creates a profound shift in Amanda. She moves from self-rejection to
compassion and self-love.
What causes Amandas breakdown? What is the basis of her transformation? In what way
are Amandas thoughts affecting her body? For the past 25 years the field of mind-body
science has been expanding rapidly, providing exciting breakthroughs in our ability to
answer these questions.

The Science
Neural Nets
One of the remarkable things about the human brain is that we are able to function at high
levels of complexity, react to numerous stimuli in our environment simultaneously, and
make decisions on the fly about what things mean and what should be done about them.
We dont have to make a new decision in each circumstance because with repeated
experience, we form associations. In other words, we learn from our experiences, and
what we learn colors our response to new situations.
The neural basis for this kind of learning can be
understood in terms of a process called long-term
potentiation. This means that connections between
nerve cells are strengthened when stimulated
repeatedly. So if a bell is rung each time food is
presented, you will learn to salivate each time you hear
the bell, even without the food (remember Pavlovs
dogs?). A neuronal pathway linking bell and food is
established and strengthened through repetition. This
is classical conditioning. But there are many other
forms of associative learning.

Resource: For more

information on long-term
potentiation, an article by
Robert C. Malenka of Stanford
University and Roger A. Nicoll
of the University of California,
San Francisco, entitled LongTerm PotentiationA Decade
of Progress? can be found at

The problem develops when this otherwise adaptive and beneficial system is hijacked by
negative responses to otherwise innocuous stimuli. It appears our brains can be
programmed not only by repeated experiences (this is how we learn) but also by extreme
circumstances. For example, a single dose of cocaine can prime a system to react with
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Resource: For more information about

healing trauma, see the article Emotional and
Psychological Trauma: Causes, Symptoms, Effects
and Treatment on the HelpGuide website at
For information on the neurological impact of
trauma, see Wounds That Never Heal by D.
Goleman at

strong craving when cocaine is presented

on another occasion. Brain changes and
associative learning can also result from
traumatic experiences. Imaging
technology makes it possible to observe
the brain in action, revealing how trauma
actually changes the structure and
function of the brain. A significant
finding is that brain scans of people with
relationship, learning, and/or social
problems reveal structural and functional
irregularities similar to those resulting

from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the film we are led to believe that Amandas new husband had an affair and their
breakup is the cause of Amandas distress. Did the experience of betrayal create an
association and corresponding pathway in the brain that got triggered at the wedding?
This prior experience may have distorted her perception of reality. Carl Jung called this
distortion projection, a psychological process in which the world becomes a screen on
which we project images from our past.
But Amandas breakdown may have had
Resource: For more information on
deeper roots than the recent betrayal by her
internal working models, an article by Ross A.
husband. Attachment theory, first
Thompson at the University of Nebraska,
conceived by John Bowlby, suggests that
Deborah J. Laible at the Southern Methodist
infants, through their interactions with their
University, and Lenna L. Ontai at the University
primary caregivers, develop internal
of California, Davis, entitled Early
Understanding of Emotion, Morality, and Selfworking models that color their
Developing a Working Model can be found at
expectations of relationships and their
overall worldview for the rest of their lives.
Early experiences with caregivers lead
young children to develop mental
representations of caregivers sensitivity and responsiveness, as well as the degree to
which they believe themselves deserving of care. Over time these models become
interpretive filters through which children reconstruct new experiences and relationships
in ways consistent with past experiences and expectations.
These then create implicit internalized rules for relating to others. The theory predicts that
children with secure or insecure attachment histories will respond to others based on
expectations of warmth and intimacy. Such expectations may cause them, for better or
worse, to evoke the kinds of responses from others that conform to their initial
expectations. Sadly, if we are preparing for rejection and are well defended against it, it
seems more likely to occur. One way to put it is that we find what we are looking for.

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Resource: UCLA researchers Daniel Siegel and Alan Schore have integrated neurobiology
with attachment theory to construct a neurodevelopmental theory of the mind, showing how an
infants interactions may influence the maturation of its brain structure, as well as its future socioemotional functioning; see http://www.themetro.com/redecision/pastart_s2000.htm

What emotional situations do you find yourself in over and over again?
What do you expect will happen in your relationships with friends?
Lovers? Family members? Colleagues? Employers?
How much of your experience do you imagine is conditioned from the
How would your life be different if you were free from this conditioning?

Molecules of Emotion
But there is more to our emotional response than just wiring. According to neurobiologist
Candace Pert, every emotion we feel circulates through our bodies as chemicals called
neuropeptides, short-chain amino acids or proteins that talk to every cell of our body.
Perts research suggests that these molecules of emotion play a significant role in guiding
what we experience as perception and conscious choice. According to Pert, "Our
emotions decide what is worth paying attention to . . . The decision about what becomes a
thought rising to consciousness and what remains an undigested thought pattern buried at
a deeper level in the body is mediated by the receptors [of our bodywide, biochemical,
information network].
Why do we keep getting into the same kinds of relationships, having the same kinds of
arguments, encountering the same kinds of bosses? According to Pert, when receptor
sites are repeatedly bombarded with peptides, they become less sensitive and require
more peptides to be stimulated. Receptors actually begin to crave the neuropeptides they
are designed to receive. In this sense, our bodies are addicted to emotional states. When
we have repeated experiences that generate the same emotional response, our bodies will
develop an appetite for these types of experiences. Like addicts, we will draw
experiences toward us that give us a fix.
Resources: For articles related to molecules of emotion and Candace Pert, see the following:

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What is it like to think of jealousy, love, or ecstasy as a chemical?

What is it like to think of your emotions as addictions?
What is the benefit of thinking about emotions this way?
Is anything lost with this way of thinking?

Are We Hard-Wired for Life?

It seems that we are neurologically conditioned through our experiences to see the world
and relate to others in ways that are preprogrammed. Can we transcend this
preprogramming? Can we shift our internal working models and remove our tendencies
to see the world and relate to others in ways that are no longer adaptive? Can we actually
rewire the braineffectively metaprogramming ourselves?
Considering how emotional patterns get locked in our brains, it is remarkable that we
change as often as we do. A near-death experience, the birth of a child, an epiphany, a
new intimate relationship, or religious conversion can catalyze profound changes of
perception and identity. Peoples lives can also be radically transformed through
meditation, diet, exercise, and repeated corrective experiences in relationship to loved
ones or in psychotherapy. Some are changed by taking medication, others by stopping the
use of drugs. Some change for the better, and others change for the worse.
While the brain was previously thought to stop developing in early childhood, exciting
new research shows that we continue to rearrange the connections between brain cells
(neuroplasticity) throughout our lives. More exciting research shows that we are able to
produce new brain cells (neurogenesis) throughout our lives as well (http://www.thescientist.com/yr2000/dec/hot_001211.html). We can change because neurons are
inherently flexible and regenerative.
Receptors for molecules of emotion also change in both sensitivity and arrangement with
other proteins in the cell membrane. In the depth world of our biochemistry lies what Pert
calls "our potential for change and growth." Various types of intention training
visualization, for examplecan help bring pertinent information to a level of self-aware
consciousness. But the wisdom of the body works in even more mysterious ways: "The
unconscious mind of the body seems all-knowing and all-powerful and in some therapies
can be harnessed for healing or change without the conscious mind ever figuring out what
The Biochemistry of Healing
Our biochemistry confirms our capacity to choose and our potential to heal. While
healing can happen without conscious effort, it appears that we can accelerate the process
through conscious practices. New research suggests that various modalities of
psychotherapy change not only ones state of mind but also the state of ones brain,
including increased blood flow to normalized metabolism in the parts of the brain that
regulate emotion, such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Exciting new research

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also shows that talk therapy changes the brain in ways similar to antidepressant
Resources: For more information on research of the neurological impact of therapy, see
Brain Blood Flow Changes in Depressed Patients Treated With Interpersonal Psychotherapy or
Venlafaxine Hydrochloride. Martin S., Martin E., Rai S., Richardson M., & Royall R. Arch Gen
Psychiatry. 2001; 58:641-648. at http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/58/7/641
and http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/58/7/631 http://archpsyc.ama-

So it seems our wiring is less our destiny than the initial conditions of our existence. In
the bodys biochemical flow, there is an ocean of new patterns and possibilities waiting
to be relearned to support our new goals. We can take action to reduce preprogrammed,
mechanical responses to the world, increasing our capacity to meet the world as a fresh
experience, moment to moment.

How Do We Heal?
Miracles rest not so much upon the faces or voices or healing power coming to us from
afar off, but on our perceptions being made finer so that for a moment our eyes can see
and our ears can hear what there is about us always. Willa Cather
If healing means being free from conditioned, preprogrammed reactions to the world,
then being healed begins to look like having the capacity to choose fresh, creative
responses to each situation as it presents itself. Freedom may not be a new or better story,
but the capacity to hold any story or identity lightly, shifting as needed. How do we heal?
A plethora of the worlds spiritual traditions, psychologies, and philosophies address this
issue. Philosophers from nondual traditions tell us that the essence of transformation is
the shift from seeing the self as separate from God or Beingthe creative force that
animates manifestationto an identification with that force. This healing thus
encompasses the whole body, mind, and spirit in full integration with itself and the
divine. A. H. Almaas expresses this process in this way:
The moment you become aware of the vicious cycle of the activity of
defensiveness, you will see clearly that what you have been rejecting is yourself
and that the rejection is useless and unnecessary. Then you will relax and stop.
The complete perception of this cycle is the stopping of the wheels. Then the
personality is dissolved by clarity. There is clarity because there is no movement
in the personality separating it from Being. As you can see, this insight comes
only with a great deal of work. It takes a long time to get to the point of seeing the
totality of ego activity. To see it experientially and directly rather than from a
disidentified or transcendent perspective is made possible by a deep exploration
of the territory of personality from within. When you see this completely, it is
possible for the movement in you that connects you with the rest of society to stop.
When it stops, you become pure, clarified personality, soul with no ego structure.
. . . For the first time, you can perceive the actual substance of the personality
without the past. (http://www.ridhwan.org/)

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Healing occurs when we remove the blocks to this natural process. It is accelerated when
we can participate consciously in the process. The recent anthology Consciousness and
Healing (Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2005) features numerous maps and guidelines
for the quest of making the unconscious conscious. It helps to remember and be humbled
by the fact that our habitual patterns of thought are not useful in helping us get free of
those patterns. As Einstein put it, We cannot solve a problem from the same level in
which it was created. The key is to be willing to engage the process.
Easier said than done, though. Willingness does not come easily when we have spent a
lifetime reinforcing our version of reality. Sometimes we have to hit bottom, as Amanda
did, to fully appreciate how imprisoned we are. Or we might have a rude awakening, such
as finding ourselves behaving very much like our parents, which often happens when we
become parents. We seldom change without discomfort. We don't even change our
position in a chair without discomfort. We change our minds with the discomfort of
cognitive dissonance (an inconsistency between our authentic beliefs and our actions).
We change our behaviors when we experience the discomfort of our desires being
thwarted. We change our hearts when they are shattered by grief or joy. Suffering may
not be required, but it is certainly a common impetus. We can also catch glimpses of our
potential through peak experiences, an inspiring film, book, piece of art, or person.
Myriad possibilities can open our imagination in ways we may least expect.

What motivates your desire to heal?

What enables you to stay committed to the process?
What have been the primary catalysts for your healing?
tends to block the process?


Stages of Healing
While healing and transformation can take many forms, they seem to move through
consistent stages, with some essential human capacities getting developed along the way.
The first step to healing the past and transcending conditioning is often simply noticing
that you are, in fact, behaving in a way that is re-enacting past wounds. As Deepak
Chopra says: Part of becoming more conscious in life is noticing responses that used to
be unconscious before. This recognition is the first step toward gaining mastery of your
reactions and transforming the old conditioning. As you become more and more aware of
your internal processes, you will come to recognize how your habits encourage you to
favor old patterns, and you will see how by not favoring the deeply worn ruts in your
consciousness, you can instead choose
RESOURCE: For a complete review of the
fresh responses and create different
scientific study of the benefits of meditation, see
outcomes. Cultivation of awareness is
thus an essential aspect of healing. In
fact, scientific evidence suggests that
training in contemplative practice can
change your brain. Long-term

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meditators have demonstrated an ability to self-induce peaceful brain states. Those who
took just an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation showed brain changes
associated with greater positive emotion that remained six months laterthey even
showed improved immune response to a flu shot (see Richard Davidsons work at the
University of Wisconsin: http://psych.wisc.edu/faculty/bio/davidson.html).
Start a Meditation Practice:
For more information on mindfulness practices and basic instruction on meditation,
see http://www.wildmind.org/meditation/mindfulness/intro.html.

What a Release!
Healing begins once we get to the root of our wounding. Psychodynamic psychologists
believe that our preprogrammed hard-wired responses to the world are defenses against
the actual pain of an original trauma, whether it was an overt single event, like an
accident or even birth itself, or subtle forms of abuse and deprivation that pervaded our
childhood. According to trauma expert Peter Levine, we replay the past because natural
processes of releasing the energy of the trauma went awry. Levine posits that our
rigidified responses to the world stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not
been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where
it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits. Similarly, controversial psychologist and
pioneer in somatic psychotherapy Wilhelm Reich proposed that unexpressed emotions
from the past are stored in body armor. Release of this energy through body-oriented
psychotherapy is crucial to healing, Reich believed.
\ca*thar"sis\, n. (Psychotherapy) The process of relieving an abnormal excitement by reestablishing the association of the emotion with the memory or idea of the event that first
caused it and of eliminating it by complete expression (called the abreaction). (MerriamWebster Medical Dictionary, 2002)
As transpersonal theorist Stanislav Grof notes, The full expression of a feeling is its
funeral pyre. This suggests that when the energy is released, the trauma is released.
Myriad therapeutic modalities help to excavate and release the core energy locked in our
body-minds. Some examples include Holotropic Breathwork, Re-Evaluation Counseling,
the Hoffman Quadrinity Process, Somatic Experiencing, and inner child work. What they
all share is a basic assumption that healing entails bringing love to aspects of experience
that have been deprived of love. Love is understood to be our full attention and
unconditional acceptance.
Practice: You can begin to get to the root of your own addictive emotions through
bodily inquiry. When you find yourself feeling distress, take your attention off of the story
and thought-stream. Take a few deep breaths and feel the sensations in your body. Keep
breathing and feeling sensations as they deepen and change. Let your body find the
positions that feel good. Keep asking yourself, What is true for me in this moment? It
helps to have a trusted friend stay with you through the process.

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The Healing Power of Love

Contemporary science is moving towards an insight that parents have never doubted:
Love heals. Everybody knows that when mom or dad kissed the scraped knee, it stopped
hurting so much. When we were children, a loving embrace could make almost anything
better. Love is so integral to the path of healing and transformation, its impossible to
separate it from any aspect of the process.
In their book, A General Theory of Love (Random House, 2001), Tom Lewis, Fari Amini,
and Richard Lannon weave together evidence from such varied fields as cognitive
neuroscience and evolutionary biology to suggest that a primordial area of the brain, far
older than reason or thinking, creates both the capacity and the need for emotional
intimacy that all humans share. A General Theory of Love describes the workings of this
ancient, pivotal bond and reveals that our nervous systems are not self-contained. Instead,
our brains link together with those of the people close to us, in a silent rhythm that makes
up the very life force of the body. These wordless and powerful ties determine our
moods, stabilize and maintain our health and well-being, and change the structure of our
brains. Consequently, who we are and who we become depend in great part on those we
RESOURCE: For information on a study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center and
the Institute of Noetic Sciences about the effects of training partners of cancer patients in a practice
of loving, compassionate intention on the patients functional quality of life and the bond between
partners, see www.noetic.org/research/files/program2.pdf and

Many painful patterns from the past get locked into our system behind the bars of blame
and shame. We might assume that if we are in pain, somebody, whether ourselves or
others, must have done something wrong. Forgiveness is an essential key to healing the
past. Gerald Jampolsky, MD, author of Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All (Beyond
Words Inc., 1999), says, Forgiveness is the process of letting go of your negative
judgments about other people and your negative judgments and self-condemnations about
yourself. . . . Forgiveness is the willingness to give all of your anguish and anger up to a
higher power and trust that it can be transformed into love.
Research shows that forgiveness can have beneficial health effects. Fred Luskin, PhD, of
the Forgiveness Project at Stanford University points out, Research based on controlled
studies has recently shown that forgiveness training can be
Resource: See two
effective in reducing hurt and stress. Luskin focuses on
articles on forgiveness by Fred
forgiveness training as a way to alleviate the anger and
Luskin, PhD, at
distress involved in feeling hurt. This could have important
implications for the prevention and treatment of
cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. The need for
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forgiveness emerges from a body of work demonstrating that unmanaged anger and
hostility can be harmful to health. Research has suggested that heart attack patients who
act in a more forgiving way demonstrated less anger and hostility and thus reduced
disease. They also reported improved overall quality of life.

How would your life be different if you could forgive those who have
caused you pain?
What do you have to lose by forgiving them?
What do you have to gain?
What helps you forgive?

Practice: Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice

The practice of loving-kindness is a specific meditation practice that can be used to
develop the quality of kindness that is the basis of forgiveness. The following instructions
were adapted from The Path with Heart (Bantam Books, 1993) by Jack Kornfield.
Sit in a comfortable position. Let your body relax. As best you can, let your mind be
quiet. Then begin to recite inwardly the following phrases: May I be filled with lovingkindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy.
When you are ready, you can begin to expand the focus of your loving-kindness to
include others. Picture others and direct the phrases toward them: May you be filled
with loving-kindness. Start with someone you consider a benefactor, then include family,
friends, and people you feel neutral toward. When you feel the sense of loving-kindness
building, you can start to direct it toward difficult people whom you have not forgiven.
With practice, 1520 minutes a day, the sense of loving-kindness will begin to flow more
easily toward these people. (http://dharma.ncf.ca/introductions/metta.html)

In recent years scientists have begun examining the
links between religion and good health, both physical
and mental. Two psychologists working to unlock the
puzzle of how faith might promote happiness, Michael
McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in
Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons, of the University
of California, Davis, say their initial scientific study
indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a
persons sense of well-being.

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Resource: For more

information on the theory and
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Practice: Keep a gratitude diary. Each evening before you go to bed, make a
list of ten things you are grateful for. Let yourself relish them as you write them
down. During the day, look for things to be grateful for, and either express them
to someone or make note of them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Many experiences create instant changes in our state of mind and biochemistry.
Americans have a weakness for quick-fix solutionsthe crash diets, the ten easy steps to
fitness, health, or enlightenment. We also love a good rushfrom extreme sports or
psychotropic drugs to spiritual highs. But these temporarily exalted states do not
necessarily transform our level of consciousness. Once we come down from the high, we
can be left at the same level of consciousness we started with. Worse yet, our search for
shortcuts and our relentless pursuit of climactic moments can contribute not only to selfdestructive, addictive behavior but also to disillusionment with the very idea of positive
human change. It is difficult for most of us to face the fact that long-term change often
requires long-term, diligent practice. The good news is that such practice can produce
results that seem nothing less than magical.
Research from the field of psychoneuroimmunology reveals some of the extent to which
thoughts and emotional patterns have physiological impacts. It is clear that our physical
and emotional healing are thoroughly interconnected. Although we can change our bodies
by changing our minds, it is not always an easy process. Putting new patterns in place
requires us to dismantle old structures and to build new ones. It can be painful, but it can
also be filled with grace and the sense of being intimately engaged in a miraculous
process. Whatever our process, in the end we are fully capable of healing our past,
changing our neural networks, recovering from emotional addictions, and living healthy,
happy lives. More than at any other time in history, we have abundant resources available
to support us.

What makes healing possible?

What does your own intuition tell you about healing the past?
What stands out for you from this chapter?
What difference can what you have learned make in your life?

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Group Activities
Playing with Peptides
Healing doesnt have to be somber and heavy. We can gain a sense of freedom by turning
our problems into playmates. The little animated molecules of emotion that wreaked
havoc in the films wedding scene were exaggerated versions of real patterns. Did any of
them look familiar? Here is a chance to make a scene with your own tyrannical peptides.
Time: 1015 minutes
1. Find the chemical subpersonality that has been bombarding your cells. Maybe you
have a tendency to be bossy, timid, or a victim.
2. Get up and explore how this subpersonality walks and talks. Exaggerate the character.
Give it a name, an accent, and an attitude.
3. Everybody in the group introduces themselves as these characters. See what scenes
play out. Engage in dialogue, letting your peptides speak for you, or pretend you are
at a party and speak out, act out.
4. Shake off your subpersonality play; then share what you noticed happened when you
made these emotional patterns explicit.
Inquiry Practice
Sit in pairs. Take turns talking and listening. Ask one question at a time, repeating it a
few times. Take two to three minutes for each question. Use a bell to time the turns and
give people a one-minute warning to wrap it up.
To which emotions might you be addicted?
What kinds of situations do these addictions consistently draw toward you?
What would your life be like without these addictions?
What do you plan to do about it?

Individual Activities
Essential Steps for Soft Addictions
In myriad traditions around the world, taking stock of ones life, sharing it with another,
and then making amends for wrongdoing have been an essential part of transformation.
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous give explicit instructions on how to do this. Here
are some steps derived from AA that can help free you from outdated modes of behavior
and thinking:
1. Write down all the ways that your thoughts and behaviors may have harmed
yourself or others.

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2. Read what you have written to someone you trust, someone who will keep it
confidential but who can also be somewhat objective.
3. Make a list of all the people you might have harmed through your behavior and
set the intention to make amends to them all.
4. Make direct amends to these people wherever possible, except when to do so
would injure them or others.
Buddy System
Its easy to feel isolated in the healing process. In addition to the professionals you might
work with, it helps to have peers with whom you can share the trials and tribulations of
your journey. Sharing your healing process is in itself healing. Find a supportive friend or
group to meet with regularly to reflect on and support each others transformation and
healing. There are many resources available to help you.
Resources: For help starting an attitudinal healing group, see
For suggestions on locating groups near you, see
Join or start an Institute of Noetic Sciences community group:

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Of all the creatures of earth, only human beings can change their patterns. Man alone
is the architect of his destiny. . . . Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their
minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to
retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it . . . and change it as times change, truly are powerless
because they cannot think new thoughts. Salman Rushdie

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Additional Resources
Bass, Ellen and Davis, Laura. The Courage to Heal - Third Edition - Revised and
Expanded : A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Perennial Publishers,
Brantley, Jeffrey, MD, and Kabat-Zinn, Jon, MD. Calming Your Anxious Mind: How
Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic. New
Harbinger Publications, 2003.
Chodron, Pema. Pure Meditation: The Tibetan Buddhist Practice of Inner Peace. Sounds
True; Unabridged edition, 2000. (Audio Cassette)
Chopra, Deepak. The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life .
Harmony, 2004.
Cozolino, Louis. The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the
Human Brain. W. W. Norton & Company, 2002
Damasio, Antonio R. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of
Consciousness. Harcourt Inc., 1999.
Gray, John. What You Feel You Can Heal. Heart Publishing, 1984.
Herman, Judith, MD. Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books, 1992.
Jampolsky, Gerald G., MD, and Walsch, Neal Donald. Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer
of All. Beyond Words Inc., 1999.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon, MD. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and
Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Ledoux, Joseph. The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life,
Touchstone, 1998.
Levine, Peter. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. North Atlantic Books, 1997.
Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, and Lannon, Richard. A General Theory of Love. Random
House, 2001.
Ornish, Dean. Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of
Intimacy, at http://www.textkit.com/0_0060930209.html.

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Schlitz, Marilyn, PhD, Amorok, Tina, Micozzi, Marc S., MD. Consciousness and
Healing: Integral Approaches to Mind-Body Medicine.Elsevier Churchill Livingston,
Siegel, Daniel J. The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to
Shape Who We Are. Guilford Press, 2001
Solomon, Marion, and Siegel, Daniel J. Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and
Brain. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.
Steindl-Rast, David. Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer. Paulist Press, 1984.
Wright, Judith. There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning
by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions. Broadway Books, 2003.

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