31 Jan Exploring the Akashic Experience: My Personal Journey (Part 4)
The Effect of Distant Mental Intention on Living Systems
A third study that I will mention involves my work on distant intention and healing. For more than a decade, I collaborated with William Braud at the Mind Science Foundation to develop a research protocol that allows us to study the correlation between one person’s intention and another person’s physiology. This is a procedure we eventually came to call distant mental interactions between living systems (DMILS). The idea behind the work was to simulate an experience in the laboratory that would allow us to study psychic healing, only working with healthy people who would serve as models for understanding what happens in the “real world.”
Over a decade, we completed a series of process-oriented studies that resulted in a highly significant statistical deviation from chance expectation across fourteen formal, randomized, and double blind experiments. While our results didn’t prove healing per se, the work helped establish a proof of the principle that healers can affect the bodies of their patients, even at a distance. In this way, we helped establish a research protocol to study what healers across the world and in many cultures believe they can do when they send healing intention to another person, even under conditions that preclude sensory exchange between them.
These effects were later replicated and expanded upon in partnership with Stephen Laberge at the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory. We again made use of a DMILS design, this time in regard to the remote staring paradigm. Here we were examining the widespread experience people report of feeling someone staring at them from a distance.
The basic design involves measuring the physiology of one person while another person focuses their attention on an image sent via closed-circuit television from one room to another. The “sender” is instructed to send their intention during experimental periods, but not during control periods. At the end of the experiment, we averaged the autonomic nervous system of the receiver and correlated it with the intention periods as compared to the “controls” or non-intention periods. In two experiments, we again produced statistically significant evidence for a psi effect. Based on a meta-analysis, these effects have been shown to replicate in various laboratories across the world.
Building on this work, in the early 90s I began an unusual research collaboration. Working with Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist, magician, and card-carrying member of the skeptical community, we began a ten-year partnership to consider the nature of the “experimenter effect.”
Richard had conducted a series of DMILS studies. While my data resulted in significant deviations between the treatment and control conditions, Wiseman consistently found chance results in his studies. To help us understand why our results differed in this way, we designed two identical experiments that made use of the same laboratory, same equipment, same subject population, same randomization procedure, and so on. The only difference was that I worked with half the people and Wiseman worked with the other half.
In our first study, conducted in his laboratory at the University of Hertfordshire, we both replicated our original findings; I found a significant difference in the mean physiology of the participants between the intention and control periods and he found a chance result. This suggested that we needed to consider our assumptions about the nature of “objectivity” and the value of a randomized double blind study design—both considered fundamental cornerstones of the scientific method. Perhaps consciousness needs different methods and different assumptions?
A second study was conducted in my laboratory at the Institute of Noetic Sciences to see if we could replicate our provocative findings; again we each confirmed our original results.
We then designed a third study to test the hypothesis that the differences in our effects were due to a sociability factor; perhaps I was making people feel more comfortable and open than Richard was and that this might explain the differences in our outcomes. Unfortunately, as we conducted identical trial after trial, the project grew to be tedious and boring. Perhaps this is a factor, perhaps not. But in the end we didn’t produce a significant psi effect, although there were some interesting internal effects.
I believe both of us remain curious about the differences in our experimental outcomes. We are both open about working with one another, even if our belief systems and research experiences differ. Through such open-minded collaborations, we may be able to gain greater insights into the nature of Akashic experiences and how we may study them through the lens of science. It’s my conviction that breakthroughs come at the points of intersection between worldviews, disciplines, and ways of knowing and being.