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The Matter with Miracles: Consciousness Research Puts Science to Spirit

IONS-FacebookScreen.face-200x278ppiSome days I wake up and it hits me all over again. There’s a lot of science going on in the world, but how many people get to work at a place where a few very brainy and dedicated scientists are measuring the farthest reaches of the mind for clues to higher levels of the human experience? I am equally awed by the experts making discoveries in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and cures for incurable diseases, but for nearly 40 years, our scientists have been working outside the “safety zones” of research in an area that skeptics throw darts at all day long.

Thankfully, like the buffer of being inside a 2000-pound electromagnetically shielded room, IONS has created a refuge for the kind of research that measures evidence for things that can’t be explained by conventional science. Now bolstered by scientific evidence, matters of consciousness (the spirit, the soul, interconnectedness, wisdom traditions, etc.) that once stood on faith are opening eyes in established institutions (corporations, education, even the military) and helping to bring widespread positive change in the world.

Some of that evidence has been discovered in IONS’ research lab—that 2000-pound electromagnetically shielded room in Petaluma. Since 2011, IONS has been expanding into three new research areas:

  1. A wet lab to allow scientists to look for evidence of an interconnection between the human mind and the human body at a genetic level. According to senior scientist Dean Radin, “If gene expression changes because the physiology changes from some baseline condition, it suggests that we can pursue deeper levels where mind and body connect.”
  2. “Heartbeat evoked potential” is an experiment in which Dean and his colleagues take simultaneous measurements of EEG and the autonomic nervous system in search of a correlation: Do heartbeats stimulate brain activity?
  3. Dean’s ultimate goal with the “heartbeat evoked potential” experiment is to see if the heartbeat of one person can stimulate brain activity in another person. (Did I mention I love my job?)

At one point in time, discoveries like these would have been considered miracles. In fact, a lot of IONS’ work deals with topics that are still considered spiritual events or miracles by many, such as spontaneous remission of disease, precognition, and distant intention.

“If you see a miracle,” Dean explained to me recently, “after the initial awe, your impulse usually is to ask, ‘How did that happen?’ In science, you need a plausible argument – or an argument that is perceived as plausible – to explain it.”

Is that what IONS does, look for some mechanistic proof or rational explanation for miracles? Can’t we just have faith? That can be a prickly issue for some, but the other thing we are finally seeing, especially in the last few years, is that consciousness research is where forward-thinking scientists and spiritual thinkers are beginning to gather, having concluded there is so much more to learn and that everyone may have a part of the answer. We have only to look at the steady increase in research on meditation to appreciate the impact.

Change is the great paradox in human evolution: it’s one of the things we fear most yet the most we have to fear if neglected. Ask Woolly Mammoth. Yet evidence from IONS’ laboratory and applications in real life have re-set the stepping stones that Western cultures have tip-toed across these last four decades: They lead to the reality of our interconnectedness and the fact that consciousness matters—even in miracles.

What do you think? Should we be looking for “the matter” in miracles?