LOS ALTOS, Ca, October 21, 2013 – After more than three decades of research into the potential of human consciousness, Dean Radin is convinced that what most of us think of as “supernormal” phenomena are destined to be seen as completely normal – an idea that’s been brewing for centuries but may finally be coming to fruition.
“The issue about consciousness is partially the act of being aware, which is so obvious that most people don’t even question it,” said Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences during a recent interview. “The second part, though, is that once you become aware of awareness, then some of the stories you read that are written as allegories and fairy tales, and religious stories as well, they start to look a little bit more plausible, like if we really understood the nature of the mind, then things we currently consider to be miracles would be more understandable.”
During the latter part of the 19th century, religious reformer Mary Baker Eddy came to basically the same conclusion, describing such phenomena as “That which [are] divinely natural, but must be learned humanly.”
Although they differ widely in both background and methodology, Radin insists, as did Eddy, that any hypothesis as to the nature of reality and the capabilities of the human mind be put to the test. For Eddy, this involved a thorough study and eventual replication of the kinds of physical cures described in the Bible, particularly the New Testament – a decidedly prayer-based method she was able to teach others as well. Radin, on the other hand, confines his research largely to psychic phenomena that can be more easily observed within a laboratory environment – things like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis.
This is not to say that prayer itself can’t be studied in a lab, only that it is much more difficult.
In one study, Radin and his colleagues tried to determine if prayer as a type of “distant healing intention” or DHI is effective in treating surgical wounds. What they found was that the more participants believed in DHI, the worse they did. They also found that the better the healers themselves thought of their efforts, again, the worse the participants’ outcomes.
Does this mean that prayer doesn’t work? Radin offers this assessment:
“In the study of any mental or medical problem, the protocols over the years have specifically stayed away from testing this versus that form of prayer. This was a strategic decision that we didn’t want to pit, [for instance], Christians against Muslims, so we simply have a wide variety of different kinds of healers involved in healing a given individual. That makes sense from a sociopolitical perspective, but from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make quite as much sense, because we’re mixing not only apples and oranges but probably fruits and vegetables.”
For Radin, the results from one of his earlier studies are more helpful – a study that looked only at the physiological effects of one person’s intentions toward another, without attempting to measure whether healing took place.
“We were simply asking, in principle, if one person thinks about another, does the receiver’s body change,” said Radin, “because if it doesn’t change, then the likelihood that one person can heal another is very, very low.”
In the end, what Radin and his fellow researchers found was that there was, in fact, a very strong correlation between sender and receiver.
“So you can say, ‘Okay, at least we know that it’s plausible, that [the] intentions [of one person] can affect the other person’s body,’” said Radin, “and if we’re lucky, it will affect it in the direction to heal them.”
Eddy, on the other hand, who founded the Christian Science Church, put less stock in the human mind itself as a healing agent and more in our ability to recognize and accept the insights and inspirations imparted by a singular divine Mind or Spirit.
“Many imagine that the phenomena of physical healing in Christian Science present only a phase of the action of the human mind, which action in some unexplained way results in the cure of disease,” she wrote in her book, Science and Health. “On the contrary, Christian Science rationally explains that all other pathological methods are the fruits of human faith in matter, — faith in the workings, not of Spirit, but of the fleshly mind which must yield to Science.”
While there are many in the scientific community who bristle at Eddy’s use of the word “Science,” particularly within a religious context, Radin has experienced a similar pushback from those who consider his line of work well outside the scientific paradigm.
“In the West the mere existence of psychic phenomena remains a contentious issue,” he writes in his recently published book, Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities. “On the religious side, within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, only God (or those he appoints) is allowed to perform miracles…. And on the scientific side, there is a widely held… assumption that these phenomena cannot exist because they violate one or more scientific principles.”
Perhaps the most entrenched of these principles is the assumption that existence is essentially matter-based. Asked if he could imagine a time when we would see ourselves as less matter- and more mind- or thought-based, Radin replies, “Of course.”
“The question is, ‘When is that? Is that next Tuesday or is that 500 years from now?’ I don’t think it’s next Tuesday,” he said. “The investments in medicine and science have a huge amount of inertia built into them, and so it’s not likely to change any time soon. But in principle, then, can we say, ‘Is there a time we will discover that healing responses and mind-body medicine really moves more toward the mind side than the body side?’ I would say then, given our research on mind-matter interactions, that the answer is, ‘Yes, we could go there.’”
Although the healings Eddy once described as “not supernatural, but supremely natural” have yet to be adequately explained, at least from a conventional scientific standpoint, there are those like Dean Radin who have every intention of continuing the effort.
“It’s clear that in some forms of energy or distant healing that something happens,” said Radin. “At this point we don’t actually understand what it is that’s happening. We don’t know how it happens. But that something is happening is fairly clear to me and to most of my colleagues who have been doing similar research.”
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.
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