The Miraculous Mirror Effect of Group Intention
In 2005 I had grown especially curious about the implication that thoughts are an actual something with the capacity to change physical matter.
A number of bestselling books had been published about the law of attraction and the power of intention, but I maintained a certain incredulity, overwhelmed by a number of awkward questions. I wondered if it was a true power, and how all-purpose it was. Were we talking about curing cancer or shifting a quantum particle? And what happens when lots of people are thinking the same thought at the same time? Does it magnify the effect?
Quantum physics and the new science seemed to change everything we thought we knew about our innate human capacities, and I wanted to test it to the limit.
Like a 21st-century doubting Thomas, I was essentially looking for a way to dissect magic.
My next book, The Intention Experiment, intended to do this by enlisting my readers in an ongoing scientific experiment, as the experimental body of group intenders. After the book’s publication in 2007, I gathered together a consortium of scientists from prestigious universities. Periodically I would invite my Internet audience to send one designated, specific thought to affect some target in a laboratory, set up by one of these scientists, who would then calculate the results to see if our thoughts had changed anything.
Eventually the Intention Experiment evolved into the world’s largest global laboratory, involving several hundred thousand of my international readers from more than 100 countries in some of the first controlled experiments on the power of mass intention. Even the simplest was carried out under rigorous scientific conditions.
As it turned out, the experiments did work. In fact, they really worked. In the 30 experiments I’ve run to date, 26 have evidenced measurable, mostly significant change.
After early successes in making seeds grow faster and changing certain properties of water (like pH), it was time for us to test whether this group mind we were measuring in the global experiments had the power to lower violence and restore peace in a war zone.
In 2008, I assembled a team of scientists, including Dr. Jessica Utts, a professor of statistics at University of California at Irvine. Dr. Utts wanted to be able to use more than two years’ worth of weekly violence data, starting from two years before our experiment until a few months afterwards, in order to model a prediction of the likely average violence levels we could expect after our intention, if the fighting carried on just as it had done in the previous two years. If there was a large difference, we’d have a compelling indication that our intention had had an effect.
For our target we settled on Sri Lanka, where a 25-year war had raged between the Tamil Tigers, the well-armed and trained rebel forces, and the Muslims and Sinhalese, the two majority communities of different faiths. In 2008 there was still no end in sight to either the violence or the Tigers’ campaign to create an independent state for the Tamil people. By the time of our experiment, the Tigers had choked off the entire north of the country.
The Foundation for Coexistence (FCE) in Columbo, Sri Lanka, a humanitarian organization focusing on conflict resolution, had created a careful recordkeeping system of weekly casualties, and agreed to supply us with the necessary data.
More than 15,000 people signed up to participate in our experiment from more than 65 countries. We sent our collective intention for 10 minutes every day for eight days, starting on September 14 and culminating on September 21, the International Day of Peace.
The first feedback about the effect of our efforts was alarming, suggesting that violence had vastly increased during our intention week. The North experienced a sudden surge of attacks and killings, largely brought on by the Sri Lankan government, which mounted full-on land, sea, and air attacks to drive the Tamil Tigers from their last strongholds in the north of the island.
But then in the immediate aftermath of the experiment, both deaths and the number of people injured fell dramatically— the death rate by 74 percent, and injuries by 48 percent. Injury levels remained down 43 percent from what they were in the months before the experiment started.
From the FCE’s statistics, violence had plummeted to well below what Dr. Utts’s model predicted should have occurred during the weeks after the experiment. Deaths, which had been steadily rising nearly week on week to the record high of our experiment, plunged a week later, back to levels that hadn’t been seen since before the fighting had intensified.
Of course, this could all have been coincidence.
But in the months that followed, the events during that week in September proved pivotal to the entire 25-year conflict. During that week, the Sri Lankan army had won a number of strategically important battles, which enabled them to turn around the entire course of the war.
In January 2009, the army recaptured the entire northern peninsula, liberating the entire Vanni district, the target of our intention. After all the decisive wins in September and January, the 25-year, intractable civil war ended in a bloody finish on May 16, 2009, nine months after our experiment. Did we do this?
Short answer: Who knows?
Certainly, when we started in September, the rebels still had a tight grip on the North, and there was no foreseeable end to the war. When noting that the most decisive battles in the entire 26-month period occurred during our very intention week, Dr. Utts had only two words to say: “Weird, huh?”
In the end, there are too many variables to say that our experiment was completely responsible. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the week the Intention Experiment had been carried out had been the most pivotal of any during the entire 25 years of the conflict.
But the most interesting part of the study wasn’t the effect of the target. A more compelling part of the story had to do with the short- and long-term effects on the experiment’s participants, which I discovered when reading the surveys I’d asked them to fill out about their experiences.
“It’s as if my brain is wired to a bigger network,” wrote one participant on his survey. Thousands more described a similar phenomenon:
“I felt like I stepped into a palpable stream of energy along my arms and hands, which felt like it had direction and force and mass.”
“My whole body was tingling, and I was having goose bumps.”
“Sort of like what I imagine it would be like to be locked in a tractor beam, like those described on Star Trek.”
“The first day, I started sobbing,” wrote Diana from New Orleans. “Not from sadness, but from how overwhelming it felt to be connected to so many people. It was powerful.”
The participants had been plunged into an altered state of consciousness, simply by holding on to the power of a collective thought.
But that wasn’t all. Something about praying in a group caused deep, possibly permanent psychological transformation in many participants, and improvements in their daily lives. The experience appeared to carry on long after the experiment was over for most of my participants, as though they had been touched by something deeply profound.
Nearly half reported that they felt more peaceful than usual, a feeling of peace that mostly affected their dealings with other people. More than two-thirds noted some change in their relationships; more than a quarter felt more love for their loved ones, and another quarter said they were getting along better with people they normally dislike or argue with. Almost half claimed to feel more love for everyone with whom they came into contact, and this connection seemed to carry on after the experiment was over.
These rebound effects seem to mirror the experiment itself. When we focused on peace, people began being peaceful. In a later experiment of mine attempting to heal a Gulf War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, thousands had reported some sort of pronounced physical improvement.
“My carpal tunnel injury improved.”
“Last 10 days I have regular digestion (I had constipation for almost 20 years).”
“The pain in the knee is completely gone.”
“I used to have colon problems, not anymore. :)”
“No longer experiencing sciatic pain.”
“I sleep better, and anxiety and panic attacks have disappeared.”
The positive effects occurred in other areas, too. Ingrid Pettersson’s husband died in late 2013, only four weeks after being diagnosed with a rare cancer. Although his oncologist had been confident that the cancer was treatable, he had been deeply affected by the pessimistic attitude of his home-health nurses and their gloomy prognosis, particularly their repeated pronouncements that he’d never resume normal activity like driving again.
Ingrid stood by, watching helplessly as her husband seemed just to give up.
Because of her husband’s rapid decline and death, Ingrid had to close his thriving business and move out of their new apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden. Within months she was beset with financial difficulties. For most of the early part of that year she was overwhelmed by shock, grief, and depression at her dramatic loss and her suddenly changed circumstances.
Several months after her husband’s death, Ingrid decided to join one of our large-scale experiments, targeting a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.
After participating, her debilitating grief vanished. “Since your last experiment, it’s all gone,” she wrote. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s just amazing. The negativities and even my grief after my husband died did not seem to affect me as much as it had done during the last months.” And best of all, she said, “I got back the flow in my life.” After the experiment she decided to start a new career organizing workshops in energy healing in Gothenburg and Stockholm.
A year after I began the global experiments I decided to try to scale down the entire process in my workshops by placing participants in small groups of about eight, just to see what would happen if group members tried to heal one of their group through a collective healing intention.
These Power of Eight groups experienced a transcendent state identical to that of the large Peace Intention Experiment participants, but in many instances, both senders and receivers reported instant, near-miraculous healings.
Marekje’s multiple sclerosis had made it difficult for her to walk without aid. The morning after she was the target of a Power of Eight group, she arrived at the workshop without her crutches.
Marcia suffered from a cataract-like opacity blocking the vision of one eye. The following day, after her group’s healing intention, she claimed that her sight in that eye had been almost fully restored.
Heddy in Maarssen, the Netherlands, suffered from an arthritic knee. After her Power of Eight group did a healing intention, Heddy was able to climb up and down the stairs easily. “I just walked downstairs normally.”
Diane in Miami had so much pain in her hip from scoliosis that she’d had to stop working out. As she was concentrating on the intention, she felt intense heat and a rapid-fire, twitching response in her back. The next day she declared, “It’s like I have a new hip.”
The healings were even more dramatic in my master classes, when I put people in groups of eight and asked them to meet weekly and intend for each other. Mitchell Dean, one of the participants, had suffered from depression for as long as he could remember. At times, he would descend into major depression, where he harbored thoughts of suicide all day long. To be a 44-year-old psychologist suffering from depression was doubly difficult, and as an integrative therapist, over the years he’d tried everything, from diet and supplements to Chinese herbs and chiropractic, but nothing had seemed to help.
Not long after Helios, his “master class” group, sent an intention to help him with his condition, Mitchell was inspired to work with a chiropractor, who ran 46 tests on him. When he got the results back, 45 were fine, but the 46th showed that one of his liver filtration systems wasn’t working. That meant that some of the toxins his body took in were going directly to his brain. Mitchell started a new regimen of Chinese medicine, diet, and supplements, and this time, they worked.
Although the depression returned for a day or two now and then, it had subsided. “Holy cow,” he thought at one point, “I feel a lot better.” But the most profound effect on himself occurred whenever he held an intention for someone else. “It just feels like there’s more good fortune that comes my way,” he said. “Something in me feels more central, more grounded, more hooked up—like a conduit to spirit.”
There have been thousands more. Intention in a group, whether large or small, creates what could only be described as an ecstasy of unity—a palpable sense of oneness. A cosmic power seems to work through us, breaking down separation among individuals, allowing them to experience the “God consciousness” of pure connection.
Perhaps praying together as a group affords a glimpse of the whole of the cosmos, the closest you can get to an experience of the miraculous. And it may be that this state, like a near-death experience, changes you forever.
Excerpted from The Power of Eight by Lynne McTaggart, which includes full instructions about how to do group intention and construct your own Power of Eight group.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #56.
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