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#1656 - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - Editor: joyce (Know_Mystery)


Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, Friend, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

~  Li-Young Lee  ~


#1656 - Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - Editor: joyce (Know_Mystery)



by Peter Rusell


SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY have never made easy bedfellows. Their views on the nature of things often seem to clash. And the more our scientific understanding of the world has grown, the stronger that clash appears to have become.

Modern science, having explored deep into the realms of space, time and matter, often appears to have done away with God. Astronomers have looked out into deep space, to the edges of the known universe; cosmologists have looked back into what they call 'deep time', to the beginning of creation; while physicists have looked down into the 'deep structure' of matter, to the fundamental constituents of the cosmos. From quarks to quasars, they find no evidence of God. Nor do they find any need for God. The Universe seems to work perfectly well without any divine assistance.

The God that science has thus eliminated is called "the God of the gaps" - the God that was needed to explain the gaps in human knowledge. Over the centuries, science has progressively filled these gaps. Before Newton, people thought God moved the sun and moon through the heavens; now we understand their motion in terms of gravity. Before Darwin, it was believed that God created the many different species of life; now we account for them in terms of genetic evolution. Similarly with earthquakes, the aurora borealis and the immune response: today plate tectonics, solar ions and molecular biology explain them quite satisfactorily.

Steadily and mercilessly, science has filled the gaps. For a while it looked as if the most significant gap of all - the creation of the cosmos itself - would not be filled. But quantum mechanics is now explaining how even the Big Bang could have started all by itself. The God of the gaps has finally, it seems, been made redundant.

There is, however, more to religion than explaining the gaps in our knowledge. Most traditions also speak of the profound personal experiences that come from following a spiritual path. They may talk of them in terms of rebirth, liberation, awakening, enlightenment, transcendence, rapture or holy union. Yet whatever the interpretation, there is a general consensus that these experiences have a profound impact on one's life.

Science has very little to say about spiritual experiences. They are not occurring in the world of space, time and matter that science charts so well, but in the world within. To understand them fully we would need to venture into the realm of 'deep mind' - a realm that Western science has yet to explore.

SCIENCE MAY NOT have explored deep mind, but others have. They are the mystics, ascetics, shamans and spiritual adepts of every culture. These people have used practices such as meditation to delve beneath the surface levels of the mind. They have observed the arising and passing of thought. And they have looked beyond, to the source of their experience, to the essence of their own consciousness. There they have discovered a profound connection with the ground of all being.

Western science does not usually pay much attention to such subjective approaches. It certainly does not consider them 'scientific'. Scientists are concerned with objective truths, with verifiable facts that are not dependent upon one's state of mind. They are looking for effects that can be measured, not internal subjective changes.

But is this subjective approach really so unscientific? The essence of science is to gain knowledge through careful observation of the natural world. Since scientists want to be able to trust this knowledge, a process has evolved to make it as reliable as possible - what is often referred to as the 'scientific method'.

An essential part of this method is isolating the object of study. If, for example, you were investigating the electrical activity of the human brain during meditation, you might put the subject in an electromagnetically shielded room to reduce electrical noise ('noise' in the technical sense of unwanted information). Then, in order to get as much desired information as possible, you would ensure the electrodes made a good electrical contact with scalp. You might also set up a 'control group', studying non-meditators in the same circumstances, to be certain that the effects you measured were specific to meditation, not simply the result of relaxation. Having gathered your data, you would study it, draw conclusions, and then make your conclusions available to others to see if they agreed. If they did, you would have established some reliable knowledge about meditation and the brain.

Similar principles apply to someone using meditation to explore the mind at first hand. First, they would seek to remove themselves from external noise. This is usually achieved by choosing a quiet place, free from disturbance. Since one wants to observe the mind clearly, it is important to remain awake and attentive, so people generally sit in a relaxed but alert posture. Then, closing the eyes, which reduces visual distractions, one turns the attention within and begins to observe.

The first thing people notice when they observe their own mind is the almost incessant flow of thoughts and inner dialogue. This internal noise continually distracts the attention from the subject of investigation: the nature of the mind itself. Here meditation comes into play. It can be thought of as an experimental technique employed to reduce the internal chatter, allowing subtler aspects of the mind to come into focus.

Countless people, throughout history, have entered the laboratory of the mind and performed such inner experiments. These 'inner scientists' have published the results of their investigations in spiritual and mystical texts - the Upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, The Cloud of Unknowing. Their conclusions show a remarkable consistency across culture and time, suggesting that this subjective approach does indeed lead to reliable knowledge about the nature of mind.

What have they discovered? Almost everyone notices that as the mind settles down there comes a growing sense of peace. The self-talk that normally occupies much of our awareness tends to increase arousal and tension. We may be worrying about things we have or have not done, feeling anxious about what might or might not happen, planning a future action, solving a problem or going over a conversation. As this activity subsides, the mind naturally becomes more peaceful.

Reducing mental activity further, one can arrive at a point where all verbal thinking ceases. At this level of consciousness, one discovers a much deeper, all-pervasive peace. Some call it bliss, others joy or serenity; but all agree that the pleasures of everyday life pale in comparison to this profound feeling of inner wellbeing.

Another quality that is found in this inner quiet is love. This is not the love we know in our daily lives, a love that is usually focused on a particular person or circumstance. It is pure love, love without an object. It is 'being in love' in a new sense: one's whole being is bathed in love.

Perhaps the most significant effect of stilling the mind is transcendence of the ego. When all the thoughts, feelings and memories by which we usually define ourselves have fallen away, the sense of a separate self dissolves. There is no longer a sense of "I am experiencing this thought or this sensation." Instead there is an identity with the essence of being. I am the consciousness in which all experience takes place.

ALTHOUGH THE DESCRIPTIONS of deep mind are remarkably consistent across cultures, the ways in which people have interpreted them vary widely. Within the monotheistic worldview that dominated Western culture for nearly 2,000 years, mystical experiences were usually interpreted in terms of a personal God. Such states of consciousness are so far removed from daily life that it is easy to see how they could be taken to be a direct connection with divinity - particularly when aspects of the experience correspond so closely to traditional descriptions of God.

A state of profound peace could indeed seem to be "the peace of God that passeth all understanding". An upwelling of the heart that bursts forth in an all-pervading love might well be interpreted as the love of God miraculously entering one's being. The compassion that dawned could be confirmation of a caring, forgiving God. And the sense of deep fulfilment and inner freedom that comes with such states could easily be taken to be the salvation promised by a merciful Deity.

The experience of the pure 'I am' did not, however, fit into the monotheistic worldview quite as easily. Many identified this unbounded sense of self with God. Some went so far as to say "I am God." To traditional religion, this rings of blasphemy. How can any lowly human being claim that he or she is God, the almighty, supreme being? When the fourteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart preached "God and I are One," he was brought before Pope John xxii and forced to "recant everything that he had falsely taught." Others suffered a worse fate. The tenth-century Islamic mystic al-Hall„j was crucified for using language that claimed an identity with God.

Yet when mystics say "I am God," or other words to that effect, they are talking neither about the individual person nor about a supernatural deity. Their inner investigations have revealed the true nature of the self. This they have experienced as a connection with the ground of all being. And it is this that they have named God.

Explaining such experiences as a direct contact with God could be seen as yet another example of the God of the gaps - albeit in a more subtle form. In this case, the gap is in our understanding of deep mind. Western traditions, both religious and scientific, have left this realm largely unexplored. To find a coherent body of knowledge about the inner world, we must look to the East, where spiritual adepts have been exploring the mind for thousands of years.

Of the Eastern traditions, Buddhism has probably gone the farthest in charting the mind. Buddhism has no concept of God: it is an atheistic religion - paradoxical as that may sound to Western ears. For Buddhists, peace, ease, joy and compassion come from knowing the essential nature of mind. They are inherent qualities of pure awareness - an awareness that is unsullied by the agitation of everyday thoughts and concerns.

A similar approach is taken by other Eastern traditions. Some of them may talk of deities and devas, but in most instances these are interpreted as aspects of the mind - the inner challenges we face and the inner allies that can help us on our journey.

Although these traditions do not need to invoke a supreme deity to account for mystical experiences, this does not make these states of mind any less awesome, meaningful or life changing. On the contrary, by interpreting them in terms of one's essential nature, the Eastern traditions can offer practical ways to make them more accessible.

Western religions have much to offer on theology, morality and the potential for spiritual advancement, but less on techniques that facilitate spiritual experiences. Eastern teachings, however, provide detailed analyses of how our awareness becomes trapped in habits and attachments, and various techniques and practices - we might call them inner technologies - to relieve the mind of its dysfunctional patterns. The goal is self-liberation, freeing the mind to experience its essential nature, and reaping the rewards that come from such an awakening. Here spirituality is science, the science of the mind.

A THIRD WAY OF interpreting spiritual states is that of Western science, which believes that the real world is that of space, time and matter, and that all phenomena are reducible to events in that world. It seeks to account for transcendental experiences, neither as a union with some supernatural deity nor as a reflection of the mind's essential nature, but in terms of brain function.

Some recent research, which has aroused quite a debate in this area, investigated changes in the brains of advanced Tibetan Buddhist meditators. When the subjects reported that their everyday sense of self was beginning to dissolve, the researchers took a brain scan. By observing the flow of blood through the brain, they were able to identify changes in brain activity. They found that as the sense of a separate self dissolved, activity in the parietal lobe, an area towards the top of the brain, decreased. This is precisely the area that neuropsychologists believe is responsible for the distinction between self and other.

The conclusion that many draw from such studies is that spiritual experiences can now be explained in terms of brain function, and that science has once again triumphed over religion. But there is really nothing very surprising about these findings. It is generally accepted that brain activity and subjective experience bear a close relationship (even if we cannot say whether one causes the other, or how). We should expect, therefore, that changes in consciousness as profound as the cessation of verbal thought, the dissolution of a separate sense of self, and a feeling of deep peace would show corresponding changes in the brain.

That we are beginning to chart these changes does not explain away spiritual states. If anything, it validates them. It shows that meditators probably do experience what they claim. So we could think of these discoveries as Western science beginning to confirm the conclusions of the inner sciences.

Meditators also claim that such states of consciousness have beneficial effects on their lives: a tendency to be more open, generous, caring and forgiving. There seems little reason to doubt that this, too, is true. If so, rather than concluding that spiritual experience has been satisfactorily accounted for, the scientific community might ask: how can we use our growing understanding of brain function to enhance the occurrence of these deep states of consciousness? For they would appear to be just what the world sorely needs.

IN THE PAST, spiritual awakening was seen as essential for one's personal salvation: to save us from hell, whether God-delivered or self-created. Today it has become an imperative for our collective salvation.

Humanity is clearly in crisis. If we continue consuming and polluting as we have done, with little regard for the long-term health of our environment, we will almost certainly trigger some or other ecological catastrophe. We may even render ourselves extinct.

Looking to the underlying causes of this crisis we find, time and again, the human factor: human decisions based on human desires, needs and priorities, often driven by human fear, greed and self-centredness. It is clear that the crisis is, at its root, a crisis of consciousness.

If we are to navigate our way safely through these challenging times, we need to see some significant shifts in attitudes and values. We need to recognise that inner peace does not depend on what we own, our social status, the roles we play, or how wealthy we are. We need to wake up to a deeper sense of self that is not at the mercy of external circumstances, and that does not need to be continually defended and maintained. We need a degree of care and compassion that extends beyond our immediate circle of family and friends to embrace strangers and people of different race and background - and also the many other species with whom we share this planet. We need to know in our hearts that their wellbeing is our wellbeing.

What is the most effective way of promoting such shifts in consciousness? The evidence points to spiritual experience. Rather than distracting us from the course of scientific progress, spirituality could be our saving grace.

Our burgeoning scientific knowledge has led to technologies that have enabled us to control and manipulate our world. The underlying goal has been to free us from unnecessary suffering and increase human wellbeing. Spiritual teachings have likewise sought to liberate people from suffering, but their path has been inward. They have sought to understand the mind and to develop inner technologies that enable us to find happiness and freedom within ourselves.

It is now becoming obvious that the material approach has not achieved all that people hoped. Despite our abundant luxuries and freedoms there is little evidence that people today are any happier with their lot than people were fifty years ago. On the other hand, we have only to look at the peace and wisdom emanating from someone such as the Dalai Lama to see that the spiritual approach does seem to bear fruit.

When it comes to understanding the cosmos, science and spirituality are describing two complementary aspects of reality: one the nature of the material world we observe around us, the other the nature of the mind observing this world. When we consider how these understandings can be applied to the betterment of humanity, we see that science and spirituality are again complementary. To create a truly sustainable world, we need both: the knowledge of science integrated with the wisdom of spirituality.




Through mindfulness we experience Interbeing
which means everything is in everything else.
Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding
is a great mantra, is the highest mantra,
is the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of all suffering,
the incorruptible truth. This is the mantra:

"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha."

The Buddha in the Heart Sutra

AMANTRA IS something that you utter when your body, your mind and your breath are at one in deep concentration. When you dwell in that deep concentration, you look into things and see them as clearly as you see an orange that you hold in the palm of your hand. Looking deeply into the five skandhas, Avalokitesvara (the Buddha) saw the nature of inter- being and overcame all pain. He became completely liberated. It was in that state of deep concentration, of joy, of liberation, that he uttered something important. That is why his utterance is a mantra.

When two young people love each other, but the young man has not said so yet, the young lady may be waiting for three very important words. If the young man is a very responsible person, he probably wants to be sure of his feeling, and he may wait a long time before saying it. Then one day, sitting together in a park, when no one else is nearby and everything is quiet, after the two of them have been silent for a long time, he utters these three words. When the young lady hears this, she trembles, because it is such an important statement. When you say something like that with your whole being, not just with your mouth or your intellect, but with your whole being, it can transform the world. A statement that has such power of transformation is called a mantra. Alokitesvara's mantra is

"Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha."

Gate means gone. Gone from suffering to the liberation of suffering. Gone from forgetfulness to mindfulness. Gone from duality into non-duality. Gate gate means gone, gone. Paragate means gone all the way to the other shore. So this mantra is said in a very strong way. Gone, gone, gone all the way over. In Parasamgate sammeans everyone, the sangha, the entire community of beings. Everyone gone over to the other shore. Bodhi is the light inside, enlightenment, or awakening. You see it and the vision of reality liberates you. And svaha is a cry of joy or excitement, like "Welcome!" or "Hallelujah!" "Gone, gone, gone all the way over, everyone gone to the other shore, enlightenment, svaha !"

THAT IS WHAT the bodhisattva uttered. When we listen to this mantra, we should bring ourselves into that state of attention, of concentration, so that we can receive the strength emanated by Avalokitesvara. We do not recite the Heart Sutra like singing a song, or with our intellect alone. If you practise the meditation on emptiness, if you penetrate the nature of interbeing with all your heart, your body, and your mind, you will realize a state that is quite concentrated. If you say the mantra then, with all your being, the mantra will have power and you will be able to have real communication, real communion with Avalokitesvara, and you will be able to transform yourself in the direction of enlightenment.

This text is not just for chanting, or to be put on an altar for worship. It is given to us as a tool to work for our liberation, for the liberation of all beings. It is like a tool for farming, given to us so that we may farm. This is the gift of Avalokita.

There are three kinds of gift. The first is the gift of material resources. The second is the gift of know-how, the gift of the Dharma. The third, the highest kind of gift, is the gift of non-fear. Avalokitesvara is someone who can help us liberate ourselves from fear.

TheHeart Sutra gives us solid ground for making peace with ourselves, for transcending the fear of birth and death, the duality of this and that. In the light of emptiness, everything is everything else, we inter-are, everyone is responsible for everything that happens in life. When you produce peace and happiness in yourself, you begin to realize peace for the whole world. With the smile that you produce in yourself, with the conscious breathing you establish within yourself, you begin to work for peace in the world.

To smile is not to smile only for yourself, the world will change because of your smile. When you practise sitting meditation, if you enjoy even one moment of your sitting, if you establish serenity and happiness inside yourself, you provide the world with a solid base of peace. If you do not give yourself peace, how can you share it with others? If you do not begin your peace work with yourself, where will you go to begin it? To sit, to smile, to look at things and really see them, these are the basis of peace work.

Yesterday, we had a tangerine party. Everyone was offered one tangerine. We put the tangerine on the palm of our hand and looked at it, breathing in a way that the tangerine became real. Most of the time when we eat a tangerine, we do not look at it. We think about many other things. To look at a tangerine is to see the blossom forming into the fruit, to see the sunshine and the rain. The tangerine in our palm is the wonderful presence of life. We are able to really see that tangerine and smell its blossom and the warm, moist earth. As the tangerine becomes real, we become real. Life in that moment becomes real.

Mindfully we began to peel our tangerine and smell its fragrance. We carefully took each section of the tangerine and put in on our tongue, and we could feel that it was a real tangerine. We ate each section of the tangerine in perfect mindfulness until we finished the entire fruit. Eating a tangerine in this way is very important, because both the tangerine and the eater of the tangerine become real. This, too, is the basic work for peace.

In Buddhist meditation we do not struggle for the kind of enlightenment that will happen five or ten years from now. We practise so that each moment of our life becomes real life. And, therefore, when we meditate, we sit for sitting; we don't sit for something else. If we sit for twenty minutes, these twenty minutes should bring us joy, life. If we practise walking meditation, we walk just for walking, not to arrive. We have to be alive with each step, and if we are, each step brings real life back to us.

The same kind of mindfulness can be practised when we eat breakfast, or when we hold a child in our arms. Hugging is a Western custom, but we from the East would like to contribute the practice of conscious breathing to it. When you hold a child in your arms, or hug your mother, or your husband, or your friend, breathe in and out three times and your happiness will be multiplied by at least tenfold. And when you look at someone, really look at them with mindfulness, and practise conscious breathing.

At the beginning of each meal, I recommend that you look at your plate and silently recite, "My plate is empty now, but I know that it is going to be filled with delicious food in just a moment."While waiting to be served or to serve yourself, I suggest you breathe three times and look at it even more deeply, "At this very moment many, many people around the world are also holding a plate but their plate is going to be empty for a long time." Forty thousand children die each day because of the lack of food. Children alone. We can be very happy to have such wonderful food, but we also suffer because we are capable of seeing. But when we see in this way, it makes us sane, because the way in front ofus is clear - the way to live so that we can make peace with ourselves and with the world.

When we see the good and the bad, the wondrous and the deep suffering, we have to live in a way that we can make peace between ourselves and the world. Understanding is the fruit of meditation. Understanding is the basis of everything.

Each breath we take, each step we make, each smile we realize, is a positive contribution to peace, a necessary step in the direction of peace for the world. In the light of interbeing, peace and happiness in your daily life mean peace and happiness in the world.

Thank you for being so attentive. Thank you for listening to Avalokitesvara. Because you are there, the Heart Sutra has become very easy.

This extract is reprinted from The Heart of Understanding, published by Parallax Press, Berkeley, California at $6.00.

Infinite Universe

Abundance is an essence that exists in infinite supply in the universe. Abundance can take on various forms such as an abundance of love, money, happiness, joy, success, and so on. Generally, we know what abundance is, but bringing abundance into our daily life eludes many of us.
Manifesting abundance requires that we put into motion two aspects :
The energetic essence of abundance that exists in infinite supply beyond structure and form. Aligning the structured aspects of the human self to the unstructured spiritual essence of abundance.

Manifesting Abundance is a recorded process that will guide you to first access the unlimited essence of abundance on the spiritual plan, and then enable you bring this energy essence into the structured aspect of self.
Manifesting Abundance uses the two spiritual laws, "as above so below," and "as within so without." Many have heard of these laws but are not certain how to put these laws into effect. To put the law into motion you must first be able to access spiritual essences that exist in unlimited supply on the levels beyond physicality. Then you must align the structured self to this essence, bringing the essence fully into your inner world. When your inner world is completely aligned to the essence, in this case abundance, it must manifest in your outer world. It is the law..
Two common mistakes people make is that they access energy alone without bringing it properly into form. Or they attempt to manifest abundance by only using the structured parts of self without accessing the energy of abundance first. People commonly use techniques to attract abundance, such as affirmations or rituals, but these are incomplete. Without the energy essence and the proper alignment of the structured aspects of self, abundance will remain out of reach.

Prince and Others, by Libby Hall, Bloomsbury, 2000, £9.99

Mind Fields

by Rupert Sheldrake HAVE YOU EVER felt you were being watched, and
turned around to find someone staring at you? Have you ever stared at
someone, and found them turn around and look at you? Have you ever
thought about someone for no apparent reason, and then that person rang
on the telephone? Or telephoned someone who says, "I was just thinking
about you!"?

The chances are that you will answer "Yes" to most, if not all, of
these questions. These are common experiences. But they are all
phenomena that have, until recently, been ignored by science because
they just don't fit in. They violate the assumption that the mind is
confined to the inside of the head. Yet there is now good experimental
evidence for their reality. They imply a much more extensive view of
our minds.

Institutional science still takes for granted the assumption that
mental activity is nothing but brain activity. Instead, I suggest that
our minds extend far beyond our brains: they stretch out through fields
that link us to our environment and to each other.

Mental fields are rooted in brains, just as magnetic fields around
magnets are rooted in the magnets themselves, or just as the fields of
transmission around mobile phones are rooted in the phones and their
internal electrical activities. As magnetic fields extend around
magnets, and electromagnetic fields around mobile phones, so mental
fields extend around brains.

Mental fields help to explain telepathy, the sense of being stared at
and other widespread but unexplained abilities. Above all, mental
fields underlie normal perception. They are an essential part of

How does vision work?

Are the images of what you see inside your brain? Or are they outside
you - just where they seem to be? According to the conventional theory,
there is a one-way process: light moves in, but nothing is projected

The inward movement of light is familiar enough. As you look at this
page, reflected light moves from the page through the electromagnetic
field into your eyes. The lenses of your eyes focus the light to form
upside-down images on your retinas. This light falling on your retinal
rod and cone cells causes electrical changes within them, which trigger
off patterned changes in the nerves of the retina. Nerve impulses move
up your optic nerves and into the brain, where they give rise to
complex patterns of electrical and chemical activity. So far, so good.
All these processes can be, and have been, studied in great detail by
neurophysiologists and other experts on vision and brain activity.

But then something very mysterious happens. You consciously experience
what you are seeing, the page in front of you. You also become
conscious of the printed words and their meanings. From the point of
view of the standard theory, there is no reason why you should be
conscious at all. Brain mechanisms ought to go on just as well without

The standard theory of vision applies to all species of animal with
image-forming eyes. It does not explain why there should be conscious
vision in any animal species, or in people. There is just unconscious,
computer-like data-processing by the nervous system.

Then comes a further problem. When you see this page, you do not
experience your image of it as being inside your brain, where it is
supposed to be. Instead, you experience its image as being located
about two feet in front of you. The image is outside your body.

The basic idea I am proposing is so simple that it is hard to grasp.
Your image of this page is just where it seems to be, in front of your
eyes, not behind your eyes. It is in your mind, but not inside your

Thus vision involves both an inward movement of light, and an outward
projection of images. Through mental fields our minds reach out to
touch what we are looking at.The sense of being stared at

Sometimes when I look at someone from behind, he or she turns and looks
straight at me. And sometimes I suddenly turn around and find someone
staring at me. Surveys show that more than 90% of people have had
experiences such as these. The sense of being stared at should not
occur if attention is all inside the head. But if it stretches out and
links us to what we are looking at, then our looking could affect what
we look at. Is this just an illusion, or does the sense of being stared
at really exist?

This question can be explored through simple experiments that cost
nothing. People work in pairs. One person, the subject, sits with his
or her back to the other, wearing a blindfold. The other person, the
looker, sits behind the subject, and in a random series of trials
either looks at the subject's neck, or looks away and thinks of
something else. The beginning of each trial is signalled by a
mechanical clicker or bleeper. Each trial lasts about ten seconds and
the subject guesses out loud "looking" or "not looking". Detailed
instructions are given on my website.

More than 100,000 trials have now been carried out, and the results are
overwhelmingly positive and hugely significant statistically, with odds
against chance of quadrillions to one. The sense of being stared at
even works when people are looked at through closed-circuit tv. Animals
are also sensitive to being looked at by people, and people by animals.
This sensitivity to look is widespread in the animal kingdom and may
well have evolved in the context of predator-prey relationships: an
animal that sensed when an unseen predator was staring would stand a
better chance of surviving than an animal without this sense.


Educated people have been brought up to believe that telepathy does not
exist. Like other so-called psychic phenomena, it is dismissed as an
illusion. Most people who espouse these negative opinions, as I used to
myself, do not do so on the basis of a close examination of the
evidence. They do so because there is a taboo against taking psychic
powers seriously. This taboo dates back at least as far as the
Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. But this is not the
place to examine its history. Rather I want to summarise some recent
experiments which suggest that telepathy not only exists, but is a
normal part of animal communication.

I first became interested in the subject of telepathy some fifteen
years ago, and started looking at evidence for telepathy in the animals
we know best, namely pets. I soon came across numerous stories from
owners of dogs, cats, parrots, horses and other animals which suggested
that these animals seemed able to read their minds and intentions.

Through public appeals I have built up a large database of such
stories, currently containing more than 3,500 case histories. These
stories fall into several categories. For example, many cat owners say
that their animals seem to sense when they are planning to take them to
the vet, even before they have taken out the carrying basket or given
any apparent clue as to their intention. Some people say their dogs
know when they are going to be taken for a walk, even when they are in
a different room, out of sight or hearing, and when the person is
merely thinking about taking them for a walk. Of course, no one finds
this behaviour surprising if it happens at a routine time, or if the
dogs see the person getting ready to go out, or hear the word "walk".
They believe it is telepathic, because it seems to happen in the
absence of such clues.

One of the commonest and most testable claims about dogs and cats is
that they know when their owners are coming home, in some cases
anticipating their arrival by ten minutes or more. In random household
surveys in Britain and America, my colleagues and I have found that
approximately 50% of dog owners and 30% of cat owners believe that
their animals anticipate the arrival of a member of the household.
Through hundreds of videotaped experiments, we have shown that dogs
react to their owners' intentions to come home even when they are many
miles away, even when they return at randomly chosen times, and even
when they travel in unfamiliar vehicles such as taxis. Telepathy seems
to be the only hypothesis that can account for the facts. (For more
details, see my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home,
and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.)

Knowing who's calling

In the course of my research on unexplained powers of animals, I heard
of dozens of dogs and cats that seemed to anticipate telephone calls
from their owners. For example, when the telephone rings in the
household of a noted professor at the University of California at
Berkeley, his wife knows when her husband is on the other end of the
line because Whiskins, their silver tabby cat, rushes to the telephone
and paws at the receiver. "Many times he succeeds in taking it off the
hook and makes appreciative miaows that are clearly audible to my
husband at the other end," she says. "If someone else telephones,
Whiskins takes no notice." The cat responds even when the professor
telephones home from field trips in Africa or South America.

I soon realised that I myself had had seemingly telepathic experiences
with telephone calls. I had thought for no apparent reason of people
who then called shortly afterwards. Almost everyone I talked to about
it said they had had experiences like this. Through extensive surveys
in several countries we have found that such experiences with telephone
calls are the most common kind of apparent telepathy in the modern

Is this all a matter of coincidence, and selective memory, whereby
people only remember when someone they were thinking about rang, and
forget all the times they were wrong? Most sceptics assume that this is
the case, but until recently there had never been any scientific
research on the subject at all.

I have developed a simple experiment to test for telephone telepathy.
Participants receive a call from one of four different callers at a
prearranged time, and they themselves select the callers, usually close
friends or family members. For each test, the caller is picked at
random by the experimenter by throwing a dice. The participant has to
say who the caller is before the caller says anything. If people were
just guessing, they would be right about one time in four, or 25% of
the time.

We have so far conducted more than 800 such trials, and the average
success rate is 42%, very significantly above the chance level of 25%,
with astronomical odds against this being a chance effect.

We have also carried out a series of trials in which two of the four
callers were familiar and the other two were strangers whose names the
participants knew, but whom they had not met. With familiar callers,
the success rate was 56%, highly significant statistically. With
strangers, it was at the chance level, in agreement with the
observation that telepathy typically takes place between people who
share emotional or social bonds.

In addition, we have found that these effects do not fall off with
distance. Some of our participants were from Australia or New Zealand,
yet they did just as well when people called them from the other side
of the world as with people in the same city.

Extended minds

Laboratory studies by parapsychologists have already provided
significant statistical evidence for telepathy (well reviewed by Dean
Radin in his book The Conscious Universe, Harper, San Francisco, 1997).
But most laboratory research has given rather weak effects, probably
because most participants and "senders" were strangers to each other,
and telepathy normally depends on social bonds.

The results of telephone telepathy experiments give much stronger and
more repeatable effects because they involve people who know each other
well. I have also found that there are striking telepathic links
between nursing mothers and their babies. Likewise, the telepathic
reactions of pets to their owners depend on strong social bonds.

I suggest that these bonds are aspects of the fields that link together
members of social groups (which I call morphic fields) and act as
channels for the transfer of information between separated members of
the group. Telepathy literally means "distant feeling", and typically
involves the communication of needs, intentions and distress. Sometimes
the telepathic reactions are experienced as feelings, sometimes as
visions or the hearing of voices, and sometimes in dreams. Many people
and pets have reacted when people they are bonded to have had an
accident, or are dying, even if this is happening many miles away.

There is an analogy for this process in quantum physics: if two
particles have been part of the same quantum system and are separated
in space, they retain a mysterious connectedness. When Einstein first
realised this implication of quantum theory, he thought quantum theory
must be wrong because it implied what he called a "spooky action at a
distance". Experiments have shown that quantum theory is right and
Einstein wrong. A change in one separated part of a system can affect
another instantaneously. This phenomenon is known as quantum
non-locality or non-separability.

Telepathy, like the sense of being stared at, is only paranormal if we
define as "normal" the theory that the mind is confined to the brain.
But if our minds reach out beyond our brains, just as they seem to, and
connect with other minds, just as they seem to, then phenomena like
telepathy and the sense of being stared at seem normal. They are not
spooky and weird, on the margins of abnormal human psychology, but are
part of our biological nature.

Of course, I am not saying that the brain is irrelevant to our
understanding of the mind. It is very relevant, and recent advances in
brain research have much to tell us. Our minds are centred in our
bodies, and in our brains in particular. However, they are not confined
to our brains, but extend beyond them. This extension occurs through
the fields of the mind, or mental fields, which exist both within and
beyond our brains.

The idea of the extended mind makes better sense of our experience than
the mind-in-the-brain theory. Above all, it liberates us. We are no
longer imprisoned within the narrow compass of our skulls, our minds
separated and isolated from each other. We are no longer alienated from
our bodies, from our environment and from other people. We are

Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of The Sense of Being
Stared at, and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (Hutchinson, £17.99).

Joe Riley ~ Panhala 

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.  

And how can you not FORGIVE ?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.  

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.  

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.  

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.    

~  Jane Kenyon  ~  

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence
~  W.S. Merwin  ~

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