The Reality of Noetics

Editorial, 18th April 2017

There exist a multitude of ways through which one can ponder over the secrets that are hidden from the mankind. It can be through the avenue of sciences which focuses on objective evaluation through experimentation and measurement, hence reducing bias and inaccuracy. Or it can follow the other way of knowing that is subjective or internal, that includes gut feelings, intuitions and hunches. Experiences like these cannot be explained or proven ‘rationally’ but feel absolutely real. This is the way of knowing that we call as ‘noetics’.

The word noetic finds its origin from the Greek word ‘noesis’ meaning ‘inner wisdom’ or ‘direct knowing’. At the ground level, noetic sciences explore the inner cosmos of our mind and explain its relationship with the outer cosmos. It focuses its research on the fundamental nature of consciousness, its interplay with the physical world and how it transforms dramatically in human beings. The metaphysical philosophy of the branch not only concerns with the mind-matter relationship but has also paved the way for the surfacing of the uncanny theory of ‘Interconnectedness of conscious ’.

Metaphorically elucidated as an Indra’s Web by Buddhist Dharma Sutras and famously described as spooky action at a distance by Albert Einstein, interconnectedness refers to the aligned behaviour of two particles such that when they interact, they are forever entangled in a way that literally transcends boundaries of space and time. It says that our conscious is entangled with the physical world such that we are spinning to a similar cosmic tune with nature. It is simply a state of matter, like a solid or liquid but quantum and a chief byproduct of our brain and bodily processes. It provides the avenues through which an individual perceives his/her environment. It is the way we think, our emotions, feelings and more. Subsequently, group consciousness is the set of shared beliefs, ideas and morals which operate as a unifying force in society. This can be thought of as a sort of invisible field that surrounds the planet, in which all gathered knowledge is available. It is a kind of energy which incessantly works towards the maintenance of the whole universe. Most of the religions seem to draw on the similar concepts of oneness, sharedness and interconnectivity, whether through the Nirvana, Karma or the Original Sin.

For centuries, the interconnectedness of conscious remained under the shadows of philosophies as a nebulous theory seeking place only in the works of philosophers, authors and poets. This can be allured in the famous works of Dean Radin under the titles Entangled Minds (1997) and Conscious Universe (2006). Murakami, one of the most acclaimed Japanese writer also talked about consciousness in his short story Yesterday. One of the HG Wells’ eminent work, The Island of Dr. Moreau is stationed upon similar lines where Edward Pendrick draws a profuse connections between humans and the beasts. But, due to the work of some neuroscientists and theoretical physicists over the last few years, we may have found a way of analysing the mysterious, metaphysical realm of consciousness in a scientific manner.

Noetic sciences came out of the cloak of its vagueness when in the year 1973, Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) was founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who two years earlier had become the sixth man to walk on the moon. It was during his trip back home when he felt a profound sense of interconnectedness – which he later described as a samadhi experience. Several experiments have been performed to substantiate the claims of Noetic Sciences, of which the most popular one is the Global Consciousness Project. The idea behind it is that the Random Number generators (RNGs), which generate zeroes and ones on a random basis, suddenly assume a structure in the events of massive earthquakes, terrorist attacks or Olympic opening ceremony exhibiting coherence of thoughts on a very large scale. That is, they physically affect the RNGs. While it has been criticised of having been unreliable and engineered, it is evidence that contemporary proponents of noetic sciences give more importance to scientifically proving their theory than appealing to faith. Another such series of six experiments was conducted to testify the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of quantum wavefunctions.

One of the experiments was conducted on the lines set by the acclaimed double slit experiment and the subsequent quantum measurement problem (QMP) associated with it. The experiment has in it the heart of quantum mechanics, still, it is bind by an enigma. In a bird’s eye view, the basic aim was to show that the ratio of the interference pattern’s double-slit spectral power to its single-slit spectral power decreases when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. The experiment was done with participants who were experts at attention-focussing tasks and were instructed to observe by extra-sensory aids the monochromatic light passing through a double-slit optical apparatus, prior to its registration as an interference pattern by an optical detector. Thus, the double slit experiment suggests a way to explore the meaning of observation in the QMP, and in particular the possible role of consciousness. But these speculations are only a few efforts in the backdrop of the immense potential the science adheres.

Noetic sciences itself arises many questions in its very existence and theories, which includes a major question of why someone should be bothered about this uncouthly theory of interconnectedness and entanglement of minds? To this, the noetics present manifold answers. The science gives implications of the power of the mind (both individual and collective) to influence the manifestation of the material phenomenon. It also underpins many well-accepted disciplines of every reach of life, from orthodox to alternative medicine and competitive sport. Our mind has the dynamism to be a powerful healer than most of the drugs. Understanding the power of conscious may bring the two parallel worlds of science and religion closer by offering scientific proof to the intuitive understanding, held by most of us, that to be alive is far more than an assemblage of chemical and electrical signals. The science also has a lurking chance concocting a casual connection between beliefs and experience. Till now we are focussing on how our experiences fabricate our beliefs but the potential lies in the vice versa, that is our beliefs forge the experiences we encounter. If we began the grasp the immense power of human consciousness, we will advance our understanding of ourselves as human beings in all our complexities.

The idea of universal consciousness is no ethereal new age concept, it’s a hardcore scientific reality, and harnessing it has the potential to transform our world- says the fictional Dr Katherine Solomon of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

Great theories have come up as explanations to naive questions such as why does a stone dropped in the air fall towards the surface of Earth, why do stars twinkle, why is the sky blue and many more. Likewise, there are questions on our very existence, our conscious and our connection with everything that awaits great discoveries in the future. And as far as noetic scientists are concerned, it doesn’t seem like they will leave any stone unturned to unearth these.

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