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The Science Of Collective Consciousness

by Robert Kenny

Robert Kenny

With more and more people talking about collective consciousness, it seems natural to wonder, Is there any scientific research to back it up? The answer, increasingly, appears to be “yes.” In fact, a growing body of recent research suggests not only that a field of awareness and intelligence exists between human beings but also that through it we influence each other in powerful ways.

Just as Gene Roddenberry imagined a future in which Star Trek's Spock could “mind meld” with others, more of us are now becoming aware of our remarkable capacity to intuit each other's thoughts and emotions, as well as to consciously think and create together without communicating through the five senses. Collective consciousness becomes most apparent in our ability to intuitively sense and work with the interactions between our and others' physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual “energy fields.” Although science has long been convinced of the existence of gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields, significant research in the frontier science known as parapsychology, or the study of psychic (“psi”) phenomena, indicates that other types of fields—including thought fields—may also exist.

A fundamental psi phenomenon is extrasensory perception or influence, perhaps made possible by the apparent ability of consciousness to operate beyond the constraints of space and time. Examples include telepathy and remote viewing. The existence of psi (or tele-prehension, as Ken Wilber calls it) has been convincingly demonstrated in numerous scientific studies carried out by Marilyn Schlitz, Dean Radin, and others. In typical remote viewing experiments, for example, one individual is sent to a distant, undisclosed location while another individual, who remains in the lab, attempts to “remotely view” and describe that distant location in detail. Across a large number of experiments, remote viewers have been able to describe another's surroundings with a statistically significant degree of accuracy. Intriguingly, pairs who had an emotional bond have obtained the strongest results. These findings suggest that groups whose members build a sense of connection and trust with each other may have an increased capacity to access and understand each other's perspectives, to “see through each other's eyes.”

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake and others have conducted several ingenious experiments that show how widespread psi abilities are—even in animals. Using synchronized video cameras placed in the homes and workplaces of dog owners, he has proven that dogs go to wait at the front doors of their homes at the precise moment their owners decide to return home from work, even when those times are varied daily. Sheldrake, Radin, and others have conducted numerous telepathy experiments on human beings as well, demonstrating that people can sense the thoughts and intentions of others across space and time. This research includes studies on a common experience called “the sense of being stared at.” By separating two people in a laboratory setting, with the first person hooked up to equipment that monitors his or her nervous system and the second person staring at the first person at random intervals on a closed-circuit television, researchers have collected evidence for the existence of this phenomenon with statistical “odds against chance“ of 3.8 million to one.

Sheldrake has also demonstrated in a number of studies that we can assist each other's learning across distances, without any external interaction or communication. In one study, for instance, a group of individuals completed a newly created crossword puzzle, and their average completion times were recorded. The same puzzle was then broadcast to millions via TV, for the viewers at home to complete. Subsequently, a new group, who had not seen the puzzle at all, finished it significantly faster than the original group, suggesting that as a result of so many individuals having done the puzzle, knowledge of the puzzle was somehow etched into the field of collective consciousness, making it increasingly easier for others to solve.

Radin, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Lab, and Roger Nelson's Global Consciousness Project have taken research into consciousness “field effects” even further—into the realm of mind/matter interactions—by conducting a series of intriguing experiments with random number–generating (RNG) computers. RNGs can basically be thought of as sophisticated coin-flipping machines, programmed to issue zeroes or ones randomly. That is, just as if you were to flip a coin one hundred times and could expect the “heads” and “tails” sides to come up fifty times each, so it is with an RNG—producing, on average, an equal number of zeroes and ones. Ordinary people, however, have used the power of thought alone to create order out of this randomness, causing RNGs that were sometimes thousands of miles away to issue significantly more of one number over many trials, simply by intending to do so. Bonded pairs—couples in a relationship—produced effects that were six times stronger than individuals. Like the remote viewing experiments, these results indicate that people with an emotional connection, when acting in concert, are more influential than individuals acting alone.

Perhaps not surprisingly, groups produce far stronger RNG results than either individuals or couples, even when the group members are unaware of the RNGs and therefore cannot intend to influence their output. For example, when merely the attention of groups has been captured by high-interest public events, RNG effects have been three times greater than when individuals have demonstrated an intentional influence on RNG machines. During certain widely televised events that have captured mass attention, such as Princess Diana's death and the 9/11 tragedies, the combined output of sixty RNGs around the world significantly deviated from chance. For example, on October 3, 1995, the day that the verdict was read in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, Radin, Nelson, and University of Amsterdam professor Dick Bierman decided to run RNGs in each of their labs to test their hypothesis that something significant would happen in the field of collective consciousness. An analysis of their combined results clearly confirmed that hypothesis. As Radin describes it in The Conscious Universe, “Around the time that the TV preshows began, at 9:00 AM Pacific Time, an unexpected degree of order appeared in all the RNGs. This soon declined back to random behavior until about 10:00 AM, which is when the verdict was supposed to be announced. A few minutes later, the order in all five RNGs suddenly peaked to its highest point in the two hours of recorded data precisely when the court clerk read the verdict.” These results suggest that millions of minds, when united with a specific focus, can have a powerful effect on the material world, mysteriously influencing normally random physical systems toward higher degrees of order.

Just as we can create order in physical systems through focused attention or intention, a number of experiments have suggested that two or more people can create synchronization or coherence between their nervous systems. For example, in research funded by the Institute of Noetic Sciences and others, Marilyn Schlitz and William Braud have shown that individuals who are calm and relaxed can intentionally reduce the anxiety of others in distant places, and that people consciously focusing their attention can help others in remote locations to concentrate their wandering minds. In another arena—“distance healing”—67 percent of 150 controlled studies have shown that individuals and groups can use intention, relaxation, enhanced concentration, visualization, and what is described as “a request to a healing force greater than themselves,” to heal others to a statistically significant degree. Healing effects and tele-prehension have increased when participants felt empathy and rapport or when they meditated together.

On community, societal, and even worldwide levels, more than twenty experiments, published in respected scientific journals, have demonstrated that Transcendental Meditation groups representing one percent of a target population have caused significant improvements in measures of quality of life and physical and mental health and have reduced crime, accidents, conflict, and war in the entire target population, apparently by reducing stress in the collective psyche.

These and other studies provide strong evidence that we can develop and work with our collective consciousness to produce a number of important interpersonal, organizational, and social benefits—from increased empathy, understanding, and respect to enhanced health, cooperation, and creative collaboration. In our increasingly diverse workplaces, communities, and global institutions, where we are challenged by extremely complex and urgent problems, cultivating these capacities will not only promote the common good but also could ensure our survival.

Robert Kenny, MBA (PhD), is a Fetzer Institute fellow and founder of Leaderful Teams Organizational Consulting. Previously, for twenty-one years, he was a human resources executive. He has published a number of articles on collective wisdom and is currently writing a book, Change Your Life, Change Your Work: The Transformative Power of Reflective Practice and Inspired Action. You can reach him at


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This article is from
Our Collective Intelligence Issue


May–July 2004


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Science of Consciousness

Collective Consciousness