The Power of Our Collective Consciousness

  • 9 April 2016
  • sjanicke

Did you ever notice that when you are having a good day and you feel calm, balanced and peaceful, that your immediate family and friends have a good day too? Research shows that happiness trickles up to three degrees removed. So not only do you make your friend happier when you feel good, but also your friends’ friends’  friends!

Studies have shown that the increased experience of positive emotions makes you feel more connected to others, experience less depressive symptoms and negative affect, and even illness symptoms.  In short, when we are in a state of positivity, we are less likely to feel angry, aggressive or focus on the negative things in life.

How can we cultivate more positive emotions, a positive outlook, resilience, attention and generosity, which neuroscientist Richard Davidson has proclaimed to be the four neuroscience based constituents for well-being (see my blog post about how to rewire happiness)?

Of course, meditation is a tool that can hack the majority of these aspects of happiness. Now, can you imagine that meditation, specifically doing it in a group can decrease terrorism, conflict, and even war, and promote societal peace? Sounds like out of a new-age sci-fi movie? Well, guess what? There is science that shows exactly that.

At the end of last year, Dr. John Hagelin Harvard quantum physicist and president of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace stated in an open letter to President Obama, Hollande and Putin in December 2015 that group meditation may be the most effective solution for the end of terrorism.

Come again?

Well, with just a short inspection of our own lives this actually makes a lot of sense.  How should peace emerge out of a state of anger, stress and anxiety? Was war ever successful in ending war? Just remember the last time you snapped at your spouse, partner or friend. You were probably NOT in a state of bliss; but a state of annoyance, maybe stress. Well, putting this to another level, living in a stressful and conflict driven environment (or an environment without trees: Check out this data on the reduction of crime in neighborhoods with nature around-->sorry got of course here..) certainly increases the likelihood for conflict and aggression. Of course, the Dalai Lama had it long figured out with his lectures on the power of compassion to transform society. However, here comes a hard-core scientist, a quantum physicist from Harvard, who puts a scientific rather than spiritual spin on it.

Hagel outlines that the root for terrorism, conflict, and war is deep-rooted societal stress which includes political, ethnic or religious tensions among rival groups.  We already know that meditation relieves individuals’ stress, but how does it alleviate societal stress? Dr. Hagelin does not advocate for “terrorists” to start meditating. No. Instead, he argues for the power of a “collective consciousness” that has a ripple effect on society, calming down the societal stress, just as our happiness has a ripple effect on others. He states, and I quote form the Huff post article in which he was interviewed here:

"Collective consciousness' is a term that means the sum total of all the individual consciousnesses that make up a society. Stressed individuals create a stressed society--a stressed collective consciousness. And everyone embedded within that stressed society feels that societal stress. It thereby feeds upon itself.” It is the overwhelming consensus of experts in the field of conflict resolution that the first stage in the emergence of war is mounting societal stress. If these tensions continue to grow unchecked, they eventually reach a boiling point (crime, war, terrorism).” (See interview with Dr. Hagelin at end of post)

The idea then is that by reducing the societal stress within the community, the urge of the violent members of that society to act upon their urges dissipates.

I imagine it like one of those interpersonal situations where you are super annoyed and want to blow off steam at a friends and the only reaction you get is: “hmm, yea that’s too bad”, and boom, all your steam has evaporated. When there is no more wood thrown in the fire, the fire simply dies. In a collective consciousness of peace there is simply no environment for anger to find fruitful ground.

Now, Hagelin’s proposition, that group meditation can reduce societal stress (including terrorism, conflict and war), is based on some really incredible scientific evidence.  As summarized in the letter that was sent to President Obama and others in December of last year, a multitude of experiments showed a relationship between a large group of mediation practitioners that convened at one location and meditated together (doing Transcendental Meditation {TM} ) and the numbers of war deaths (reduction of up to 76%!) as well as a reduction of other crimes, accidents, and fires around the neighborhoods the meditators met.

Overall, seven experiments following the strictest scientific principles of conduct, replicated these findings with the majority of them taking place in the early 80’s in the Middle East at the height of the Lebanon conflict. For each study a large group of meditators convened at one location (e.g., Israel, USA, Netherlands) over a period of time to meditate together. Across the seven social experiments conducted, the same profound results were found, including a reduction of war-related fatalities by 71% (p < 10-10) and war-related injuries by 68% (p < 10-6), as well as reduced levels of conflict by 48% (p < 10-8) and increased cooperation among antagonists by 66% (p < 10-6).

One of the studies investigated the effects of group meditation of 800-4000 TM meditators who meditated for 7 weeks twice daily in Washington DC on the reduction of crime in the district in 1993. The crime data was derived from databases of the Police Department of the District of Columbia metropolitan and the statistical analyses, controlling for changes in the weather, historical crime trends and annual patterns in the District of Columbia and trends in neighborhood cities, showed a significant decrease in homicides, rapes and assaults over the course of the experiment. The maximum drop of the crime rate was achieved at the point where the most meditators got together to meditate (4000 people at the end of July 1993). Crime was reduced by 23% during that time. The data was analyzed in the most critical and conservative ways and the likelihood that this result was due to some random chance was smaller than two parts per billion (p<.0000000002).

This is really mind-blowing stuff.

To get into the details of how that is possible, one would have to dig deep into quantum physics territorial, which helps to explain more about the more non-material nature of our existence. However, from the data at hand it can be inferred that not only is meditation a useful tool to reduce stress for an individual, but doing so in a group can have a ripple effect that literally effects the consciousness of one’s whole community; and does so in a positive, violence reducing way. Just as the Dalai Lama always said. Now there is scientific evidence backing it up.

Now, what role do technologies play in all of this? Well, maybe it can enhance this synchronization effect somehow. Dr. Michael Persinger, a cognitive neuroscientist is the lead researcher in a project called “excess correlation” which is an open source hardware technology that can amplify brain synchronization between people at different places in the world (thanks Mikey Siegel for posting the consciousness hacking meeting with Dr. Persingers panel discussion online for people to view even after the meetup).

So maybe in the future, the power of a group that brings their state of mind to a specific brain frequency could be amplified and thus, reach places much further away from the meeting point. So having a group of 4000 meditators synch their brainwaves in New York and peoples’ collective consciousness in Syria would be affected. That’s the stuff I like to see.

Collective Consciousness is real. And each and every one of us has the power to contribute to societal well-being everyday. You want to make an impact in the world? Instead of volunteering at your local charity, maybe you want think about starting a local meditation group and meditate the heck out of your violent neighborhoods--Together, one individual consciousness at a time.