Omega: Can you explain what the research on prayer and healing shows? How does prayer help heal?
Dossey: There are around 30 major controlled clinical trials of distant intercessory prayer, around half of which show statistically significant results—far more than you would expect by chance. Healing studies are also confirmed in nonhumans—plants, animals, microbes, even biochemical reactions—which show that the healing response in humans cannot possibly be attributed only to the placebo response or the power of positive thinking.
The mechanism of healing is not known. Several hypotheses are in the running. The leading candidate, I believe, is entanglement, a concept drawn from quantum physics, in which distant entities, if once in contact, remain in contact thereafter, no matter how far apart they are. Entanglement is now known to be a property of biological life, not just subatomic particles.
Dossey: Any evidence for the temporal nonlocality of consciousness (the idea that consciousness exists beyond the mind and body) implies immortality or eternality in time. Nonlocality does not imply “a rather long time” or “pretty far off.” Nonlocality implies infinitude in space and time. You can’t be “a little nonlocal.” It’s like pregnancy: You can’t be “somewhat pregnant.” Therefore, if mind is genuinely nonlocal, immortality is mandated, it is not optional. I regard the evidence for a nonlocal aspect of consciousness as overwhelmingly positive.
Affirmative evidence also exists in near-death experiences, which around 15 million Americans have experienced. Are these valid, or are they evidence of a sick, dying, chaotic brain? I believe they are valid indicators of life after death. The usual criticisms have been refuted by Chris Carter in his important book Science and the Near-Death Experience.
Omega: How can humility open us up to these ideas, both as individuals and as a culture?
Dossey: “Humility” comes from the Latin humus, or “ground.” Humility “grounds” us. It makes possible a willingness to say we don’t know everything, that our cultural prohibitions against these phenomena are not final, and that the universe is full of surprises. Humility makes it possible to follow science wherever it leads, and to abandon preformed prejudices when they no longer serve us, when they are in conflict with actual evidence.
Omega: In your book The Power of Premonitions, you say there is overwhelming data that shows it is possible for us to know the future. Can you explain how the data shows premonitions are not just a trick of the mind?
Dossey: There are many categories of evidence. The two that are most compelling are (1) presentiment experiments and (2) remote viewing studies. The odds against a chance explanation in both cases are around a million against one.
In the presentiment studies, a subject will be shown either a lovely, serene image or a violent, horrible image on a computer screen. If the violent image is going to be shown, then several seconds prior, the autonomic nervous system generates an exaggerated stress response before the randomized computer program has even selected which type of image will be shown. This is stunning evidence that we unconsciously sense the future. These results have been replicated by various scientists in dozens of studies.
In remote viewing studies, a distant individual is able to receive and record information that is mentally “sent” to them days before the information is sent or even selected by a randomized computer program.
Both types of experiments demonstrate the ability to know future information before it happens. These studies are important. They show that precognition, or premonitions, are not just “mere anecdotes,” as skeptics charge.
Omega: What can we do to open ourselves up to sensing premonitions?
Dossey: All methods of cultivating premonitions involve opening up to the unconscious and putting the busy mind in abeyance so that deeper wisdom may bubble up. That’s why a discipline of quieting the mind is a potent method of cultivating premonitions—meditation, contemplation, immersion in nature, etc.
Since they frequently occur in dreams, keep a dream diary. This also helps set the stage for premonitions and makes them more likely.
Reading about premonitions also helps you recognize them when they occur. What are they like for others? What do they feel like? How do they manifest? How can we recognize them when they occur? If you know what you're looking for, you're more likely to find it.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies