From the moment that the white Ford Bronco had skittishly raced along the LA freeway, tens of millions of Americans per minute had watched the drama unfold on court TV.
And now, nearly a year into the trial, half a billion viewers
worldwide had turned on their television sets, ready to watch the
live broadcast of the fate of the Bronco’s driver, who was awaiting
the jury’s verdict as to whether he had or had not brutally slashed
to death his wife and her lover.
And now a year and four days after the jury had
first been selected, this true-life drama which had made for so much
compulsive viewing, which had cut so deeply into daytime soap opera
viewing that it could command its own premium television advertising
space, was about to come to an end.
The verdict would be read the following
morning at 10 a.m. The world would have to wait one more day.
She and O.J. Simpson stood up. The world held its breath.
Afterwards, Radin examined their output.
Three statistically significant peaks of highs had occurred in all five computers at exactly the same three moments: a small peak at 9 a.m. Pacific time, a larger peak an hour later, and then an enormous peak seven minutes after that.
These three blips corresponded to the three most important final moments of the trial: when the show first started, with the initial television commentary - the time when most people would have turned on their television sets - then the beginning of the broadcast of the actual courtroom proceedings, and finally the exact moment the verdict was announced.
Like everyone else in the
world, these computers had snapped to attention to find out whether O.J. was innocent or guilty.1
As Radin and his colleagues observed the apparent ability of the human mind to extend its boundaries, natural questions arose about whether the effects get larger when many individuals operate in unison and indeed whether a collective global mind ever operated as a unity.
If coherence could develop between individuals
and their environment, was there also a possibility of group
It was 1993 and Nelson was a 53-year-old doctor of psychology, unofficially looked upon as the coordinator of experiments at the PEAR lab, a natural hand at directing, the fellow who got everybody together to make sure the job got done.
He’d come to the lab in 1980 for a
year-long sabbatical from teaching at a college in Vermont, but then
one year turned into two, and before long he informed his college
that he wasn’t coming back. The PEAR work was intoxicating for the
Nebraska-born Nelson, red-bearded and rustic-featured, another
philosopher scientist drawn, even as a child, to the scientific
As expected, the graph of the HIs was shifted a little to the left, and that of the LOs was shifted a little to the right.
Roger then pulled up the statistics for the third test, when people were not supposed to have any intention toward the machine. It was supposed to be a baseline, with a shape that was virtually indistinguishable from those of pure chance when the machine was running by itself, with nobody trying to affect it. The graph was nothing like that. It was all squeezed together.
In the very center, there was a neat and obvious exception, a little bar jutting up, resembling nothing so much as a clenched little fist. There it was, wagging at him in reproach. Nelson laughed so hard at it that he fell off his chair. How could he have failed to recognize this? Even trying not to think of anything might create its own focus of energy.
Your mind couldn’t
help it. Intending not to have any effect on a REG machine was like
trying not to think of elephants. Perhaps any sort of attention, by
its very act of focusing consciousness, could create order. The mind
was always carrying on - noticing, thinking.
Nelson began by testing this with a device he’d
named Cont-REG - shorthand for keeping a REG machine running
continuously to see if it registered any more heads or tails than
usual in the ordinary course of the day and then establishing what
had been going on in the room during the moments of effect.
You attend to it in a state of peak
Suppose you assemble an
entire crowd, all focusing intently on the same thing. Would the
effect be even greater? Was there a relation between the size of the
crowd or the intensity of interest and the size of the effect? After
all, he thought, everyone had had moments in their lives where the
consciousness of a group event could almost be felt. A REG machine
was so exquisitely sensitive that it might just pick up on this.
Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne were already planning to attend the International Consciousness Research Laboratories in April 1993, where a group of senior scholars met twice a year to exchange information about the role of consciousness. Later that year, Nelson planned to attend the Direct Mental Healing Interactions (DHML) group, held at the Esalen Institute in California, which promised to be a powerful conference of a dozen scientists examining how to conduct research on healing.
In Hollywood, a certain awe was
reserved for people who were ‘good meetings’. In Nelson’s case, the
question was whether a REG machine would pick up the good vibrations
The main difference between these and the ordinary REG
trials was that the group wouldn’t be trying to influence the
machine in any way.
A big central incline in the graph corresponded exactly with the point during the meeting where there’d been an intense, twenty-minute discussion concerning ritual in everyday life, which had captivated the audience.
examined log books and audio recordings of group members made at the
time. Many of the fifty attendees had remarked upon the discussion
as a special shared moment. Without knowing of the outcome of the REG machine, one member had reported that a change in the group’s
energy had been almost palpable.4
Any change - whether more heads or more tails, or sometimes more heads and then sometimes more tails - would be construed as a departure from chance. This called for a different statistical method of analyzing the data from that used by the PEAR lab for its ordinary studies. Nelson decided to use a method called ‘chi square’, which entailed plotting the square of each individual run.
Any unusual behavior, some prolonged or extreme
deviation from its expected random heads-or-tails-type monotony,
would easily show up.
member of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS)
expressed an interest in the PEAR work, Nelson loaned him a FieldREG
and the machine attended fifteen of their ritual pagan gatherings -
including Sabbats and those held during the full moon.6
The FieldREG attended ten shows in two cities
in 1995 and several performances in eight cities in 1996. As if on
cue, each moment that Nelson had predicted caused a glitch in the
For a REG machine, whose movements were so delicately minuscule, these
effects were relatively large - three times what it was for
individuals at PEAR trying to affect the machines on their own. In
the pagan sessions, the FieldREG had veered wildly off course twice,
both during full-moon rituals, recording many more tails than usual.
The particular activity didn’t really matter.
What seemed most
important was the intensity of the group, the ability of the
activity to keep its audience spellbound, and it helped if there was
some sort of collective resonance in the group, particularly some
context that was emotionally meaningful to them. At the humor
conference, the machine made its biggest deviation during an evening
keynote presentation, which was so funny the audience had given the
comic a standing ovation and demanded an encore. What was clearly
most important was that everyone was focused in rapt attention, all
thinking the same thought.
The REG machine was in a sense a kind of thermometer, measuring the
dynamics and coherence of the group. Only the business and academic
meetings had no effect on the machine. If a group was bored and its
attention was wandering, in a manner of speaking the machine was
bored, too. It was just the intense moments of like-mindedness which
seemed to gather enough power to impart some order on the chaotic
purposelessness of a REG machine.
Were they sacred because their use over the centuries had invested them with that quality, or had there been a quality about the site - the configuration of trees or stones, the spirit of place, its very location - that had been there from the beginning, leading human beings to naturally select it for that purpose? Ancient peoples had been sensitive to the earth’s signals, able to read and pay attention to certain configurations such as ley lines.
If there was something different
about the place itself, had a type of collective consciousness
coalesced there like an energetic whorl, or had some sort of
energetic resonance always existed? And would any of this register
on a REG machine?
Later, he walked around Devil’s Tower himself with a PalmREG in his pocket, and then visited Wounded Knee in South Dakota, the site of the massacre of an entire Sioux tribe. Nelson surveyed the desolation, the cemetery and the monument to the dead. He fell into a deep quiet.
Later, when he looked at the data for the two places,
it was beyond doubt: his machine’s output was definitely being
affected, and with a far larger effect size than ordinary PEAR
studies, as though there were some lingering memory of the thoughts
of all the people who’d lived and died there.9
This trip would give him the chance to see whether people engaged in meditative activities at these sites - the kind of activities, in a sense, for which the sites had originally been built - had even more effect on the machines. Nelson kept a PalmREG running in his coat pocket during visits to all the major sites - the great Sphinx, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The PalmREG was on
while the group meditated or chanted and when they were simply
wandering through the temples, and even during moments when he was
on his own, touring or meditating. He also kept a careful record of
times when various activities had occurred.
These were among the largest effects he’d seen - as large as those for a bonded couple. But when he put together all the data of the twenty-seven sacred sites he’d visited, while simply walking around them with no more than a respectful silence, the results were even more astounding.
The spirit of the
place itself appeared to register effects every bit as large as the
Again, when the group attempted chanting and meditation in other sites which were not deemed to be sacred but were nevertheless interesting, the effects on the PalmREG were significant, but smaller.
Even when the members of the group seemed attuned to each other - during a solar eclipse, attending a special astrology session, or a sunset birthday party - the machine’s effects were also small, not much greater than the effects observed during a standard REG trial. Nelson even monitored a series of his own focused ritual - during prayer at a mosque or certain ritual walks and while observing and trying to ‘decode’ hieroglyphics.
of them had been involving to Nelson - some deeply moving.
Nevertheless, the machine’s output deviated a little, but no more
than it would have if he were home in Princeton, sitting in front of
a REG machine. Clearly, some resonance reverberated at the sites,
possibly even a vortex of coherent memory.
And no matter how deeply
engaged Nelson had been on his own, he could not match the effect
size of the group.
A similar situation had occurred at Karnak.
Nelson was amazed once the results had been plotted on a graph; both
of them formed a large pyramid. It was hard to keep from thinking
that, on some level, the PalmREG had been experiencing Nelson’s trip
Would they all be thinking the same thing while they watched?
To test this, Radin needed something beyond a sitcom - an event that would guarantee an audience on the edge of its seat.11
O.J. Simpson trial verdict would later represent a natural
choice. But for his first study, Radin chose the Sixty-seventh
Academy Awards in March 1995, which, with its estimated viewer size
of one billion, was one of the biggest audiences he could think of.
This audience comprised people in 120 different countries, so their
contribution in mass attention would be coming from around the
During the broadcast,
both Radin and his assistant painstakingly noted down, minute by
minute, the high interest and low interest moments of the show. Any
moments of peak tension, such as the announcement of the winners for
best picture, best actor or actress, were timed and noted as ‘high
During the low interest periods, on the other hand, the degree of order was at a lower level, with odds against it having occurred by chance no greater than 10 to 1. Both computers were also run for four hours after the event, and during this control period, after a tiny high, possibly reflecting the end of the awards ceremony, both quickly returned to their usual random behavior.
his own experiment a year later, with similar results. He got the
same kind of results with the Summer Olympics of July 1996 and of
course the O.J. Simpson trial.
During the most important moments of the Super-bowl game, the machine deviated slightly, but the effect wasn’t anywhere near as marked as it was during the O.J. Simpson trial or the Academy Awards. This may have to do with one simple problem with a sports event - the fact that groups of people react differently and passionately to each play, depending on which team they are rooting for.
Radin also figured it might have
something to do with the number of commercial breaks continually
chopping up the game, especially as the advertisements shown during Superbowl have become as popular as the game
itself. It was sometimes difficult to distinguish times of high
interest from times of low interest and the results showed it.
Over the years, the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, the opera house Wagner had built for himself, had become something of a sacred site to which Wagner aficionados make an annual pilgrimage for the Wagner festival. These were true Wagner fanatics, intimate with every note, every waxing and waning of emotion, happy to sit through 15 hours of the Ring cycle.
Festspielhaus attendees, in the main, were Wagnerian experts.
This, in short, represented the perfect audience for a FieldREG
As a whole, over the three years, the
trends were consistent, showing an overall change in order in the
machine during the most highly emotional scenes or those with the
most poignant music, such as choir parts.12
Obviously, audience attention
required a Wagnerian type of intensity to have any affect on the
machine. Vaitl concluded that a resonance might be more likely to be
created when the audience knows the music well and is tuned into it.
In some quarters, poltergeists are not believed to be anything more than an intense energy emanating from an individual, often a tempestuous adolescent. In this instance, Bierman installed a REG machine and compared times the family reported a poltergeist effect and the heads-and-tails random output generated by the machine. The same moments the house reported an object flying around, the machine also demonstrated a deviation from chance.14
It may be that an
individual with that type of intensity is creating the poltergeist
experience through intense quantum effects in The Field.
He now began to wonder whether this was more than simple coincidence.
The FieldREG studies had left him with questions
about how this type of field consciousness might operate in real
life. It occurred to him that the collective wishing of the entire
university community for a sunny day might actually have an effect
in chasing rain clouds away.
statistical terms, this meant that Princeton had some magical dry
effect around graduation time and was drier than usual, whereas all
the surrounding towns were as wet as they should be around that time
of year. Even on the one day when there’d been a flood of 2.6 inches
of rain in Princeton, curiously the rain had held off until the
ceremony had finished.15
For twenty years, the Transcendental Meditation organization had systematically tested, through dozens and dozens of studies, whether group meditation could reduce violence and discord in the world. It was the contention of the founder of Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, that individual stress led to world stress and that group calm led to world calm.
He’d postulated that if 1 per cent of an area had people practising TM, or the square root of 1 per cent of the population were practising TM-Sidhi, a more advanced and active type of meditation, conflict of any variety - rates of shootings and other crime, drug abuse, even traffic accidents - would go down. The idea of the ‘Maharishi’ effect was that regularly practicing TM enables you to get in touch with a fundamental field that connects all things - a concept not unlike the Zero Point Field.
If enough people were doing it, the coherence would prove
infectious among the entire population.
Special groups of yogic flyers have assembled all over the
world, carrying out special ‘meditation intensives’ targeted at
specific areas of conflict. Since 1979 a US Super Radiance group
ranging in size from a few hundred to more than 8000 has gathered
twice a day at Maharishi International University in Fairfield,
Iowa, to attempt to create greater harmony in the world.
A recent study, the National Demonstration Project in Washington DC, conducted over two months in 1993, showed that when the local Super Radiance group increased to 4000, violent crime, which had been steadily increasing during the first five months of the year, began to fall, to 24 per cent, and continued to drop until the end of the experiment. As soon as the group disbanded, the crime rate rose again.
The study demonstrated that
the effect couldn’t have been due to such variables as weather, the
police or any special anti-crime campaign.16
In a follow-up
study of 48 cities, half of which had a 1 per cent population which
meditated, the 1 per cent cities achieved a 22 per cent decrease in
crime, compared with an increase of 2 per cent in the control
cities, and an 89 per cent reduction in the crime trend, compared
with an increase of 53 per cent in the control cities.17
Once again, confounding influences such as
weather, weekends or holidays had been controlled for.18
Nelson immediately pounced on it.
As an EEG reads the activity of an individual brain, by attaching electrodes over its surface, so they might be able to take readings of the mind of Gaia, as many people liked to refer to the world. James Lovelock had coined the name, after the Greek goddess of the earth, with his hypothesis that the world is a living entity with its own consciousness.19
Perhaps they could set up a network of REGs dotted all over the world. The world EEG would be run continuously, taking a constant temperature of the state of the collective mind.
When they were searching for a name for it, another colleague of Nelson’s came up with ‘ElectroGaiaGram’, or EGG. Nelson liked the term ‘noosphere’, coined by Teilhard de Chardin to reflect the idea that the earth was encased in a layer of intelligence.
Although Nelson would develop
this idea into the
Global Consciousness Project, a project at Princeton but separate
from PEAR, EGG was the name that stuck.
Continuous streams of data
pouring out of them were sent over the Internet, to be matched with
dramatic moments in modern history - the death of John F. Kennedy Jr, and the near impeachment of Bill Clinton; the Paris crash of
Concorde and the bombing of Yugoslavia; floodings and volcanic
eruptions and the New Year’s celebrations of Y2K.
Clearly, the tragedy of the young and troubled princess captured the heart of the world, and the REGs had picked it up.21
elections and even the Monica Lewinsky scandal didn’t seem to stir
the world. But New Year’s celebrations, major disasters and
tragedies sent a shiver through the collective spine that duly
showed up on the machines. Not surprisingly, one of the most
profound effects was felt during and immediately after the September
11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.22
Germany had been depressed in every sense after the First World War.
dispiritedness have affected the Germans on a quantum level, making
it easier for Hitler, that most intoxicating of speakers, to create
a kind of negative collective, which fed on itself and condoned the
grossest of evils? Had a collective consciousness been responsible
for the Spanish inquisition? The Salem witchcraft trials? Did
collective evil also create coherence?
The Zero Point Field provided a likely explanation for certain unexplained physical synchronicities - such as the scientifically verified coming together of menstrual cycles among women in close proximity.23
Could it also account for
emotional and intellectual synchronicity in the world?
One day, he might have
the capacity to measure the effect of the entire beach, for that was
the ultimate point. The beach should only be measured in its
entirety. The sand of the entire shore is indivisible.