The experience of a larger mind that transcends individual minds is nothing new. People have stumbled onto it with regularity throughout history, including in our era. As writer Craig Hamilton says, “Indeed, rescue crews, sports teams, dance troupes and music ensembles have for years been reporting remarkable experiences of team synergy or group flow that have lifted them up to undreamed-of heights of coordination and effectiveness.” I’ve often had this experience during CPR events on hospitals wards and in emergency rooms, when the entire resuscitation team functions almost wordlessly and effortlessly in total synchrony. This experience is also common in combat, which is one reason why war has been so devilishly difficult to eradicate throughout human history.
Expanded views of consciousness are being taken seriously in the down-to-earth, highly practical business world. In a seminal paper entitled “The Power of Mind: What If the Game Is Bigger Than We Think?” published in the Journal of Management Inquiry in 2004, management specialists C. Marlene Fiol and Edward J. O’Conner, of the University of Colorado at Denver, suggest that our current ideas about the human mind and its supposed limitations may themselves be limited. They ask, “What if organizational realities were more malleable than we believe? What if organizational members could alter their physical surroundings even just occasionally through focused mental attention?” They review evidence from numerous fields suggesting that the human mind may be capable of affecting physical reality from a distance and into the past and the future. They conclude, “[T]he evidence for the impact of focused mental attention is sufficiently compelling and the potential implications sufficiently important that we believe it is time to explicitly examine the organizational implications of the power of the human mind.”
A generation ago, academic talk of group intelligence and the possibility that mind might modify its environment directly, unrestrained by space and time, would have been considered professional suicide.
Today’s youngsters — the so-called Millennials, Net Generation, Generation Y, Digital Natives, or whatever we call the cohort of young people born between 1980 and 2000 — seem to embrace the ideas of collective consciousness and extended mind more effortlessly than any previous generation. Being online with others nearly all their waking hours provides them a direct experience of a kind of group intelligence. Linked continually via their electronic appendages with their peers, they are practically the one mind come to life. Will the gadgets make it easier for these kids to take the next step and grok the deep oneness of consciousness of which the great traditions have spoken for millennia?
Lest the idea of a unitary, group, or universal mind be dismissed as new-age woo-woo, we should note that some of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th century have endorsed this perspective. The renowned physicist David Bohm said, “Each person enfolds something of the spirit of the other in his consciousness. Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one. This is a virtual certainty… and if we don’t see this it’s because we are blinding ourselves to it.” Anthropologist and psychologist Gregory Bateson: “The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in the pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system…” Physicist Henry Margenau: “There is a physical reality that is in essence the same for all… [This] oneness of the all implies the universality of mind… If my conclusions are correct, each individual is part of God or part of the Universal Mind.” Nobel physicist Erwin Schrodinger also believed that minds are united and one. He said, “To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless. There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousness… [I]n truth there is only one mind.”
In his book Infinity and the Mind, mathematician and author Rudy Rucker relates a telephone interview with Kurt Godel, the author of the famous theorem that bears his name, and who is widely regarded as the greatest logician of the 20th century. Rucker had been puzzling over the nature of consciousness and whether machines can think. He asked Godel if he believed whether “there is a single Mind behind all the various appearances and activities of the world.” He reports, “[Godel] replied that, yes, the Mind exists independently of its individual properties.” Rucker then asked if he believed that the Mind is everywhere, as opposed to its being localized in the brains of people. Godel replied, “Of course.”
These world-renowned scientists and thinkers did not arrive at their conclusions about the nature of consciousness in fever dreams, but by a careful analysis of evidence and experience. Yet there is a near-total blackout within current science toward these views and the abundant evidence supporting them. In its failure to acknowledge the unitary, collective, and fundamental nature of consciousness, science has set itself against the experience of many of today’s brightest kids. This is a profound contradiction from which science is suffering, evidenced in its failure to attract and retain youngsters whose sense of being in the world does not resonate with the brain-based, isolated, individual, limited views that have been deified during the 20th century.
- Hamilton C. Come together. EnlightenNext.org. http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j25/collective.asp. Accessed March 27, 2010.
- Dossey L. War: a Vietnam memoir. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1999;5(1):12-17, 96-100.
- Fiol CM, O’Connor EJ. “The Power of Mind: What If the Game Is Bigger Than We Think?” Journal of Management Inquiry. 2004; 13 (4): 342-352.
- Bohm D. Quoted in: Weber R. Dialogues with Scientists and Sages.
- New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul;1986:41.
- Bateson G. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. San Francisco: Chandler Press;1972: 467.
- Margenau H. The Miracle of Existence. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press;1984:111.
- Margenau H. The Miracle of Existence. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press;1984:120.
- Schrodinger E. My View of the World. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press; 1983:31-34.
- Erwin Schrodinger, What Is Life? and Mind and Matter. London: Cambridge University Press; 1969:139.
- Rucker R. Infinity and the Mind. New York, NY: Bantam; 1983: 177.