Psy-Links: March 2024

In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s leading thinkers at the intersection of science, consciousness, psychology, and spirituality.

People like Iain McGilchrist, Lisa Miller, Bernardo Kastrup, Andrew Newberg, and Donald Hoffman.

Gradually, this is starting to change how I see the world.

And made me realise that our reality is a lot more mysterious than I could ever possibly imagine.

This article provides some of the most interesting insights and research shared during these interviews.

I hope these are as impactful for you as they have been for me.

How Mass Meditation Affects the Crime Rate in Cities

Several studies have shown a correlation between mass meditation (using the TM Method) and significant reductions in the crime rate of major US cities.

Of particular interest is a study involving 4,000 meditators in Washington DC in 1993.

After controlling for temperature, homicides, rapes, and assaults decreased by up to 23.3% during the experimental period from June 7 to July 30, 1993.

If you want to check out some of the other research in this area, here are some of the other papers:

Societal Violence and Collective Consciousness (2016)

The maharishi effect: reduced crime in merseyside metropolitan area

Test of a Field Model of Consciousness and Social Change (1988)

Consciousness as a Field (1987)

To see Dr. Andrew Newberg elaborate on these findings, see: 0:28 – > 14:18 in this video.

Scientific Research into Near Death Experiences

Dr. Pim van Lommel is a cardiologist who, for decades, has been studying the subjective experiences of patients who temporarily “die” when their heart stops beating and brain shuts down during cardiac arrest.

Although clinically “dead”, many of these patients report intensely meaningful experiences during these moments, often seeing a tunnel or light, experiencing a “life-review”, and reconnecting with deceased relatives.

It’s also common for NDE survivors to lose their fear of death and make profound positive changes in their lives afterwards.

Dr Van Lommel’s research is revolutionary because it suggests that consciousness may continue — even when the brain is not functioning, which challenges the mainstream scientific view that the brain produces consciousness.

Think about that for a second…

If the brain produces consciousness, how could stopping its activity lead to experiences like those described by van Lommel’s patients? And what might it say about the nature of our reality that people have profound experiences like these when brain activity ceases?

For a deeper dive, check out Dr. van Lommel’s interview with the Essentia Foundation.

In Meditation, Your Brain Vibrates at the same Wavelength as All of Nature

Lisa Miller, PhD, is the Director of the first Ivy League Graduate Program and Research Institute in spirituality and psychology.

Her research has been published in more than one hundred peer-reviewed articles.

In an interview for TWU’s podcast, Dr. Miller shared findings from EEG studies which show that when we are in a “spiritually engaged state” (e.g. in deep meditation or alone on a forest walk), our brain gives off a particular wavelength known as “high amplitude alpha”.

Interestingly, this same wavelength has another name in a separate field.

In theoretical physics, it is referred to as “Schumann’s Resonance“. Often described as “earth’s heartbeat”, this is the vibration from the Earth’s crust up one mile. As Dr Miller puts it:

“It is the vibration of nature herself.”

In other words, when you are in a spiritually engaged state, your brain waves are “in sync” with the vibrational frequency (i.e. heartbeat) of the planet. If you’ve ever had a feeling of “oneness” in meditation, this might help to explain it.

See 4 mins 30 seconds in this interview for more.

The Paradox of Psychedelics: Reduced Brain Activity Enhances Conscious Experience

In psychedelic research trials, people claim to experience new realities, report feeling connected to something larger than themselves, and often see fractal visual imagery.

Given the richness, colour, and depth of these experiences, you’d expect psychedelic use to correlate with increases in brain activity.

As philosopher Bernardo K. puts it:

“You’d expect it to light up like a Christmas tree.”

However, since 2012, a consistent finding across multiple studies with many different groups, has been that psychedelic use leads to significant decreases in brain activity.

This leads some to suggest that the brain activity being reduced in this state is the activity which causes us to feel separate from the world around us. Therefore, the reduction allows our consciousness to temporarily access a larger reality usually unavailable to our five senses.

Head Traumas and Savants

There’s also multiple cases in which head traumas have led to enhancements in consciousness.

A particularly interesting story involves Jason Padgett – a futon salesman, who after receiving blows to the head during a violent robbery, became a maths genius with savant-like abilities and perception. When researchers put Padgett in an MRI scanner, they discovered he could access parts of his brain that were normally unavailable, and that his visual cortex was now working in sync with the area that does mathematics. This enabled him to produce extraordinary fractal drawings that Padgett believed “held the key to the universe”.

Or there’s the story of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroscientist who experienced a stroke in her left hemisphere, and was suddenly opened up to a completely new reality.

As Taylor describes it in her TED talk:

“…It was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I’m the person on the machine having the experience, to some esoteric space where I’m witnessing myself having this experience.”

The strange thing about the above examples is that a reduction of brain activity led to an enrichment of conscious experience and — what appears to be — access to a deeper layer of reality.

This suggests there may be a reality beyond our five senses and that we may only be accessing a tiny fragment of what’s actually there in our ordinary state of consciousness.

Evolution Hid the Truth From Our Eyes

Interestingly, research from Professor Donald Hoffman at the University of California provides empirical evidence in support of this claim.

He has found that evolution by natural selection did not wire us to see the “truth” of what’s actually there.

But instead only what’s relevant to our survival and reproduction.

According to Hoffman, our ordinary state of consciousness acts as a kind of “filter” or “reducing valve”, blocking out everything not relevant to these goals — meaning we only see a tiny fragment of the world.

Hoffman’s research is encapsulated by the sentence:

“Evolution hid the truth from our eyes.”

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Niall McKeever

Writer and Founder of The Weekend University. Passionate about making great ideas more accessible.

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