7 Billion Minds, or One?
A distinguished physician deeply rooted in the scientific world, Larry Dossey is an advocate of the role of the mind in health and the role of spirituality in health care. In this blog post based on his book, One Mind, he explains the unity and connectedness of all human beings.
"I felt there was no separation between anything. I felt as if I were united with everything, and it was wonderful!" This recent report from a reader is a universal experience of people who are concerned with psychological and spiritual growth. This sense of connectedness is not fantasy, but is being affirmed by recent advances in consciousness research.
Where our mind is concerned, we've been more concerned with disunity than unity. During the 20th century we took the mind apart—the conscious, the unconscious, the pre- and sub-conscious, the collective unconscious, the superego, ego, id, and so on. When we look through the other end of the telescope, however, we can see a different pattern. We can make out what I call the One Mind—not a subdivision of consciousness, but the overarching, inclusive dimension to which all the mental components of all individual minds, past, present, and future belong. I capitalize the One Mind to distinguish it from the single, one mind that each individual appears to possess.
This is not a philosophical gambit, but is based on human experience and actual scientific experiments. Consider studies in which human neurons are separated into two batches and sealed in so-called Faraday containers that block physical communication. When one batch is stimulated with a laser, the distant batch of neurons registers the same changes at the same time.
Or consider a huge collection of neurons, the human brain. When distant individuals who are emotionally bonded are wired with encephalographs that record their brain waves, or when they are both monitored with fMRI brain scanners, when one individual's brain is visually stimulated the distant individual's EEG or fMRI scan registers the same change at the same time.
Further: "[H]appiness is ... contagious ... Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don't even know who are one, two, and three degrees removed from you."
Fowler and Christakis have shown that if your friend's friend's friend becomes happy—someone you've never met nor heard of—that has a greater effect on your happiness than if someone put $5,000 in your pocket.
There are hundreds of additional studies that reveal the unlimited, boundless behaviors of our minds. As consciousness researcher Stephan A. Schwartz describes these experiments: "Today there are six stabilized...protocols used in laboratories around the world exploring these...phenomena. Under rigorous double or triple blind, randomized, and tightly controlled conditions, each of these six has independently produced [odds against chance] of...one in a billion..."
The emerging image of mind is that it cannot be put in a box (or brain) and walled off from all other minds. If minds are boundless and boundaryless, as evidence suggests, in some sense all minds connect.
Throughout history many eminent scientists have glimpsed this fact. This includes Nobel physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who proclaimed, "The overall number of minds is just one...In truth there is only one mind." And the distinguished physicist David Bohm asserted, "Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one."
Neither the experimental evidence for our connectedness nor the experience of individuals across millennia seems to make much difference to skeptics afflicted by "randomania," "statisticalitis," "coincidentitis," or "ODD" (Obsessive Debunking Disorder ). No matter. Skeptics can ignore the evidence, but they cannot wish it away. As physicist Max Planck once said, paraphrased, "Science progresses funeral by funeral."
The concept of a collective One Mind with which each individual is connected suggests a pool of intelligence that might be tapped by creative individuals. As America's great inventor, Thomas Edison, said, "People say I have created things. I have never created anything. I get impressions from the Universe at large and work them out, but I am only a plate on a record or a receiving apparatus—what you will. Thoughts are really impressions that we get from outside."
The eminent German physicist and philosopher Baron Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker agreed. He said, "[In any great discovery] we find the often disturbing and happy experience: 'It is not I; I have not done this.' Still, in a certain way it is I—yet not the ego...but...a more comprehensive self."
Our unity and connectedness as humans have taken a back seat to our obsession with individuality. Individuality should be honored; generally speaking, a species without a strong sense of individuality does not long survive on this planet. But individuality is only one side of the human coin. Neglecting the coin's other side, our collective unity, is a recipe for disaster nationally and globally, because the epidemic of selfishness and greed that has been unleashed by this unbalanced view of human nature is now threatening not only our social structure, but also the larger eco-environmental fabric and life-support systems that sustain us.
The ethical implications of our fundamental connectedness are profound. Because of our intrinsic oneness, health can never be merely personal, and neither can illness, poverty, or hunger. The unity we share requires a recalibration of the Golden Rule from, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," to "Be kind to others because in some sense they are you."
On this realization, our future on Earth may depend.