How Deep Is Our Connectedness?

How Deep Is Our Connectedness?

By Larry Dossey, MD

One of the great lessons of twentieth-century medical research is that social connectedness and interaction with others promote health and wellness, and isolation inhibits it. Nature did not design us to be alone. Sometimes this awareness bursts forth spontaneously.

“I felt there was no separation between anything. I felt as if I were united with everything, and it was wonderful!” This recent report from a reader is a universal experience of people who are concerned with psychological and spiritual growth. This sense of connectedness is not fantasy, but is being affirmed by recent advances in consciousness research.

But where our mind is concerned, we’ve been more concerned with disunity than unity. During the twentieth century we took the mind apart — the conscious, the unconscious, the pre- and sub-conscious, the collective unconscious, the superego, ego, id, and so on. When we look through the other end of the telescope, however, we can see a different pattern. We can make out what I call the One Mind — not a subdivision of consciousness, but the overarching, inclusive dimension to which all the mental components of all individual minds — past, present, and future — belong. I capitalize the One Mind to distinguish it from the single, one mind that each individual appears to possess.

This is not a philosophical gambit, but is based on human experience and actual scientific experiments. Consider studies in which human neurons are separated into two batches and sealed in so-called Faraday containers that block physical communication. When one batch is stimulated with a laser, the distant batch of neurons registers the same changes at the same time.[1]

Or consider a huge collection of neurons, the human brain. When distant individuals who are emotionally bonded are wired with encephalographs that record their brain waves, or when they are both monitored with fMRI brain scanners, when one individual’s brain is visually stimulated the distant individual’s EEG or fMRI scan registers the same change at the same time.[2], [3]

Recent studies by James Fowler at U.C-San Diego and Nicholas Christakis, then at Harvard Medical School, found that “[E]motions have a collective existence — they are not just an individual phenomenon.” Further, “[H]appiness is…contagious….Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don’t even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you.” Fowler and Christakis have shown that if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy — someone you’ve never met nor heard of — that has a greater effect on your happiness than if someone put $5,000 in your pocket.[4], [5]

There are hundreds of additional studies that reveal the unlimited, boundless behaviors of our minds. As consciousness researcher Stephan A. Schwartz describes these experiments, “Today there are six stabilized…protocols used in laboratories around the world exploring these…phenomena. Under rigorous double or triple blind, randomized and tightly controlled conditions, each of these six has independently produced [odds against chance] of…one in a billion….” [6]

The emerging image of mind is that it cannot be put in a box (or brain) and walled off from all other minds. If minds are unlimited, boundless and boundaryless, as evidence suggests, in some sense all minds connect.

Throughout history many eminent scientists have glimpsed this fact. This includes Nobel physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who proclaimed, “The overall number of minds is just one….In truth there is only one mind.”[7] And the distinguished physicist David Bohm asserted, “Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one.”[8]

Neither the experimental evidence for our connectedness nor the experience of individuals across millennia seems to make much difference to skeptics afflicted by “randomania,” “statisticalitis,” “coincidentitis,” or “ODD” (Obsessive Debunking Disorder[9]). No matter. Skeptics can ignore the evidence, but they cannot wish it away. As physicist Max Planck once said, paraphrased, “Science progresses funeral by funeral.”

The concept of a collective One Mind with which each individual is connected suggests a pool of intelligence that might be tapped by creative individuals. As America’s great inventor, Thomas Edison, said, "People say I have created things. I have never created anything. I get impressions from the Universe at large and work them out, but I am only a plate on a record or a receiving apparatus — what you will. Thoughts are really impressions that we get from outside."[10] The eminent German physicist and philosopher Baron Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker agreed. He said, “[In any great discovery] we find the often disturbing and happy experience: ‘It is not I; I have not done this.’ Still, in a certain way it is I — yet not the ego…but…a more comprehensive self.”[11]

Our unity and connectedness as humans have taken a back seat to our obsession with individuality. Individuality should be honored; generally speaking, a species without a strong sense of individuality does not long survive on this planet. But individuality is only one side of the human coin. Neglecting the coin’s other side, our collective unity, is a recipe for disaster nationally and globally, because the epidemic of selfishness and greed that has been unleashed by this unbalanced view of human nature is now threatening not only our social structure, but also the larger eco-environmental fabric and life-support systems that sustain us.

The ethical implications of our fundamental connectedness are profound. Because of our intrinsic oneness, health can never be merely personal, and neither can illness, poverty, or hunger. The unity we share requires a recalibration of the Golden Rule from “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to “Be kind to others because in some sense they are you.”

On this realization, our future on Earth may depend.        


(This article is based on ONE MIND: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters by Larry Dossey, MD. Carlsbad, CA:  Hay House; 2013)

Larry Dossey, MD is an internal medicine physician, former chief of staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital, and the author of twelve books exploring the role of consciousness and spirituality in health, most recently One Mind.


REFERENCES

[1] Pizzi R, Fantasia A, Gelain F, Rossetti D, Vescovi A. Nonlocal correlation between separated human neural networks. In: Donkor E, Pirick AR, Brandt HE (eds.) Quantum Information and Computation II. Proceedings of SPIE5436. 2004:107-117. Abstract available at: The Smithsonian/ NASA Astrophysics Data System. http://adsabs.harvard.

[2] Wackerman J, Seiter C, Keibel H, Walach H.  Correlations be tween brain electricalactivities of two spatially separated human subjects. Neuroscience Letters. 2003; (336): 60-64.

[3] Standish L, Johnson, LC, Richards T, Kozak L. Evidence of correlated functional MRI signals between distant human brains. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2003: (9): 122-128.



[4] Fowler JH, Christakis NA. Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal.  2008; 337: a2338.

[5] Christakis NA, Fowler JH. Connected:  The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.  Boston, MA:  Little, Brown and Company; 2009.

[6] Schwartz S. Six Protocols, Neuroscience, and Near Death: An Emerging Paradigm Incorporating Nonlocal Consciousness Aspects of Consciousness – Volume II. Essays on Physics, Deathand the Mind. Volume II. Ingrid Fredriksson, ed. McFarland: Jefferson, NC (in press).

[7] Schrödinger E.  What is Life? and Mind and Matter.  London, UK:  Cambridge University Press; 1969: 139, 145.

[8] Bohm D.  Quoted in:  Renée Weber. Dialogues with Scientists and Sages.  New York, NY:  Routledge & Kegan Paul; 1986: 41.

[9] Sheridan T.  Obsessive debunking disorder (ODD)? http://thomassheridanarts.com/articles.php?article_id=82. Accessed October 20, 2013.

[10] Edison T.  Quoted in: Neil Baldwin, Edison:  Inventing the Century. NY:  Hyperion; 1995:376.

[11] von Weizsäcker CF.  Introduction.  Gopi Krishna. The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius.  New York, NY:  Harper and Row; 1972: 35-36.