The Wisdom of the Sufis

Geometric tiling on the underside of the dome of Hafiz Shirazi’s tomb in Shiraz via Wikimedia

When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers, I had a course in religion and literature that really changed how I viewed both topics. The course had a long reading list and the professor (Thank you, Dr. Ellen Weaver!) had us read many books of both fiction and source non-fiction.

One of those books was The Wisdom of the Sufis which is printed in many different forms. I learned about things that were totally new to me: prayers and legends of the Sufi mystics, dervishes and how this mysticism grew out of medieval orthodox Islam.

In class, we learned about the Latifa prayer and tried it as a group in the classroom in a spiritual, not religious, way. This ancient Sufi prayer is meant to connect us with the essence of our being. At one time, this prayer was secret knowledge meant only for initiated disciples because it was considered to be a very holy and powerful practice.

I use the word “prayer” because that is the word used in translations and because it does come from a religious tradition, that is a loaded word to use for non-Sufis or non-religious people. You could call this a meditation if that makes more sense to your practice. I have tried to use it as a morning practice.

It is a simple prayer but one thing that makes it different from other prayers is that the words are accompanied by hand movements. The words are connected with a specific body part.

Non-Sufi believers now use the prayer as a guided meditation and I have seen yoga centers that use this much like the chakras in Indian spirituality.

The Latifa prayer was once a secret prayer only for initiated disciples, but the prayer is out there now. I’m not sure this pleases the Sufi followers or if they are gladdened to see their practices being more widely understood.

The prayer is a succession of seven themes:

I exist
I long
I hope
I trust
I release
I love
I am prepared

But then, the movements…

When you say, “I exist,” you place your right hand on your left hip with the help of your left hand while thinking about why you exist.

With your left hand, place your right hand on your right hip and say to yourself: “I desire” while thinking about the things you desire and how they influence your life.

“I hope” is connected to your right hand on your left lung aided by your left hand. Think about what you are hopeful about and how that feels.

Move your right hand to your right lung and say “I believe and I trust.” Trust comes out of hope and trust makes you stronger.

Now, your right hand goes to your neck as you say “I let go.” Think about what you need to let go of – maybe sadness or anger.

Move your right hand to the center of your chest and tell yourself “I love.” Think of a love that is strong and pure and try to feel that radiate through your body.

To finish the prayer, your right hand goes above your navel, and you place your left hand on top of it. Now, say “I am prepared” – to face the world and to know your own voice within.

Something else that separates this from what you may know as prayer is that it is for inner peace and self-affirmation. That may not be what you associate with prayer since many people pray for things. We pray for the material things we want, things we want to happen or not happen, things we want to change. The Latifa is about finding things in yourself, not outside.

The Sufi parables in those books of wisdom were short and reminded me of Zen parables.

An example:
An old man accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life.
Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.
“I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl, and this is how I survived.”

There are many Sufi parables online and in books if you’re interested in reading them. Many have been translated in modern English versions but are rooted in classical Sufis, such as Rumi, Attar, or S’adi.

A video of someone doing the Latifa and showing the movements with the words would be very helpful, but I couldn’t find one. I did find a guided version of the prayer, but it doesn’t show the movements. If you find a good video of this, please leave a comment here for others.

Since religion can be divisive and even political, I will mention here that Sufism is a mystical form of Islam that emphasizes the inward search for God and shuns materialism. Though it has produced some beloved literature (such as the love poems of the 13th-century Rumi) it has also come under attacks by other modern-day Islamists because Sufis cherish tolerance and pluralism – which are not qualities that in many religions unsettle extremists.

An earlier version of this post appeared at One-Page Schoolhouse

Mantra: Instrument of Mind


The Om syllable is considered a mantra in its own right in the Vedanta school of Hinduism.


The word “mantra” comes from ancient Sanskrit combining man meaning mind and tra meaning instrument, with the idea being that it is an instrument of the mind. A mantra is a word or phrase in Sanskrit that you repeat over and over, either aloud or silently.

I first learned about it when I first encountered meditation because the repetition of a mantra quiets the mind and should bring peace and clarity.

“Om” is probably the most well know Sanskrit Mantra. Om is believed to be the sound of creation. It is the first, original vibration. Positive mantras create a powerful sound vibration that aligns the mind, body and spirit to divine energy.

Using mantras is a type of meditation and chanting one is treated like meditation – seated in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

In transcendental meditation, a mantra is considered a personal and secret thing, but now you can find mantras online and even YouTube videos of how to pronounce the ancient Sanskrit words.

I was taught to chant it out loud seven times, then again seven times but softly, and then silently in my head seven more times or for as long as needed silently until the vibration of the sound connects in some way to your  subconscious mind.

I learned much later that in India tradition, the mantra is repeated 108 times, using a string of 108 Mala beads to help you keep count. This reminded me of the praying of the rosary and other props used to focus meditation or prayer.

So, are mantras really prayers? I think they can be, but they do not have to have any connection to a religious sect or practice. Mantras, when used properly, are said to direct your life force energy (Prana) through the body and your energy centers. That is why some practitioners credit them with deep healing.

It is easy to make fun of mantras, as Woody Allen did in Annie Hall. (Do you recognize the rather distraught young man in the clip above who has forgotten his mantra? It’s Jeff Goldblum in a bit part back in 1977.)

When I first was given a mantra by some “Buddhists” I met my freshman year of college, I was told that I could request anything and by chanting my mantra regularly my wish would be fulfilled. “Could I get a new guitar?” I asked. “Absolutely,” was the reply.

That is not what mantras are about.

I question the powers attached to an individual mantra. For example, Om Namah Shivaya is the “great redeeming mantra” and is supposed to help us to call on our higher self, overcome our ego, aid in purification and space cleansing, physical and mental healing and increase self-esteem and confidence. That seems like a lot to ask of six syllables.

Om Shanti translates as “peace” and is a popular mantra. Om Namah Shivaya is also a well known Hindu mantra and the most important mantra in Shaivism. It means “O salutations to the auspicious one!” or “adoration to Lord Shiva.”

You don’t have to use a Sanskrit mantra. There are other words and phrases in English or any language you can use. J.D. Salinger introduced me to the Jesus Prayer which is used as a mantra. That short prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Salinger is most famous for The Catcher In The Rye, but after the fame of that book sent him off to a hermit’s life in Cornish, New Hampshire, he wrote Franny and Zooey. That book introduced me – and I’m sure many others – to the Jesus Prayer.

Salinger’s novel also introduced me to the Russian tale The Way of a Pilgrim, which is essentially an introduction to The Philokalia – part of Christian mysticism.

In a literary sense, the story of the siblings Franny and Zooey, the two youngest members of the Glass family which was a frequent focus of Salinger’s writing, may be a reaction to the success of Catcher in the Rye.

Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of Catcher, is full of teenage existential angst. It puts him into a mental hospital.  Salinger himself escaped the fame train that his first book put him on and went into isolation and read a lot about philosophy and spirituality.

Franny and Zooey is a modern American take on the path from existential depression to spiritual illumination. Franny explains the method of the Jesus Prayer in this way:

“… if you keep saying that prayer over and over again, you only have to just do it with your lips at first – then eventually what happens, the prayer becomes self-active. Something happens after a while. I don’t know what but something happens, the words get synchronized with the person’s heart-beats, and then you’re actually praying without ceasing. The prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ-Consciousness.”

Positive mantras should be words that resonate for you. You could just use a word such as “peace” as your mantra. People will create their own mantra. Someone coming out of a broken relationship or leaving a job might say “I will find a better life.” The mantra can be about your intention.

More than a few self-proclaimed modern”gurus” have built a career (and fortune) by getting people to use mantras (whether they use that word or not) and to repeat over and over positive phrases such as “I am strong.”

In Franny and Zooey, Salinger also has a character warn us about using a mantra.

“You can say the Jesus Prayer from now till doomsday, but if you don’t realize that the only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment, I don’t see how you ever move an inch. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment. Desirelessness. ‘Cessations from all hankerings.’ It’s this business of desiring, if you want to know the goddamn truth, that makes an actor in the first place. Why’re you making me tell you things you already know? Somewhere along the line – in one damn incarnation or another, if you like – you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings. Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect. The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act. Act for God, if you want to – be God’s actress, if you want to. What could be prettier?” source

I identified as a college student with Franny Glass. She is a 20-year-old English major. Her story takes place when she visits her boyfriend for a college football weekend at his school.  She is already tiring of the phoniness of college life and the egotism of faculty and students – including her boyfriend.

“I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting.’

Her existential crisis is at a point where it is making her physically sick. Her boyfriend doesn’t understand the little book, The Way of a Pilgrim, she has borrowed from the college library that is in her handbag.

At the end of her story, she explains that the prayer means to her that ‘You get to see God. Something happens in some absolutely nonphysical part of the heart—where the Hindus say that Atman resides…”

She is nauseous, sweating and has just confessed out loud what she is feeling. Franny faints on the way to the bathroom. “Alone, Franny lay quite still, looking up at the ceiling. Her lips began to move, forming soundless words, and they continued to move.”

Salinger was writing Catcher fresh from getting out of WWII and surrounded by Beat Generation poets and novelists and their fascination with Eastern philosophies. We know that Salinger also was interested in Eastern religious philosophy such as Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita Vedanta, but also Christian spirituality.

The nineteenth-century Russian peasant who wrote The Way of a Pilgrim tells the story of his journey as a mendicant traveller across Russia, He repeats the Jesus Prayer uninterruptedly, as a type of mantra.

It’s too much to say that the two stories of Franny and Zooey are full stories of pilgrims or hero journeys or even someone in crisis finding enlightenment. And it’s too much to say that chanting a mantra will solve all your problems.

Nichiren was a 13th-century Buddhist monk who saw as the essence of Buddhism the belief that we have within us at each moment the ability to overcome any problem or difficulty that we may encounter in life. He believed we have the ability to transform any suffering through a power we possess by being connected to a fundamental law.principle that underlies the workings of all life and the universe.

The name he gave to this principle was “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” This was the first mantra I was given in that college encounter with budding Buddhists. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and I used in meditations for about a year, but I left it.

I rediscovered it (though it had been flashing in my brain on and off for the rest of my life) only a few years ago. I read an article explaining the meaning of the words and then realized that part of what appealed to me about the mantra was that I did not know what the words meant. The mystery of the words was part of my attraction to them.

The past year I have used this mantra as a way to clear my mind of thoughts, especially when I am trying to get to sleep. Luckily, I have forgotten the meaning of the words so that the chanting carries no other meaning, no associations that are an opportunity to distraction. The silent chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo pushes other thoughts away. An empty mind can be a wonderful thing.

St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Ávila s a young woman by François Gérard, 1826

Last March 28, I saw on a website that it was the birthday of St. Teresa of Ávila. I’m not a “religious” person these days in the sense of organized religion, but I have an odd relationship with St. Teresa.

It started when I was 13 and attended “Sunday school” at St. Leo’s Church in Irvington, New Jersey. That year my teacher was a young and very kind nun. Those two qualities set Sister Teresa Avila apart from all the other nuns I encountered.

I knew nothing about the real Saint Teresa of Ávila whom she was named after until many years later. Saint Teresa (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun and author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.

Teresa grew up in a wealthy household in the province of Ávila, Spain. She was a beautiful and social girl who loved her privileged life, perfume, jewelry, and elegant clothes. Her mother died when she was 14, and her father sent her to a convent school to protect his beautiful daughter.

Perhaps surprisingly, she found the religious training very appealing and she decided to become a nun.

After twenty increasingly important years, she established her own monastery, She then traveled around Spain on a donkey, setting up 16 new monasteries for women. She also wrote several books, including The Way of Perfection (1566) and The Interior Castle (1580).

One day in that thirteenth year, I had forgotten a homework assignment for Sunday school catechism class. Sister Teresa told me to go home, get the assignment, bring it to the convent and ask for her. The nun who answered my knock at the convent door went to get Sister Teresa.

When Sister Teresa Avila appeared she was not wearing her nun’s habit. I can only imagine how my face must have looked.

She was beautiful. She had long, dark, shiny hair. She asked me for my assignment which was in my hand. I was frozen. It probably took me a few seconds to respond but it felt like a lot longer.

I was in love with her in the way that a boy of 13 can be in love with an adult woman. I don’t know in what way a boy can be in love with a nun.

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini , 1652

In college, I took a course about religion in literature and although it was taught by a religion professor, it was the most influential literature course I took as an English major. Along with novels, we read religious works including The Wisdom of the Sufis, The Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa’s The Interior Castle.

The Interior Castle was inspired by Saint Teresa’s mystical vision of a crystal castle with seven chambers, each representing a different stage in spiritual development. She immediately wrote her book which is divided into seven parts (also called mansions, dwelling places or chambers) Each level brings you closer to God.

Entrance into the first three mansions is achieved by prayer and meditation. The fourth through seventh mansions are considered to be mystical or contemplative prayer. The soul achieves clarity in prayer and a spiritual marriage with God in the seventh mansions.

Of course, as I read the book my thoughts often returned to Sister Teresa rather than Saint Teresa. The two have remained blurred in my mind. I imagine Sister Teresa before she took the veil as a beautiful young girl much like the Teresa of Avila in 1529.

Over the years, both Teresa’s have been in my thoughts and have been alluded to in other works. Simone de Beauvoir writes about Teresa as a woman who lived her life for herself in her book The Second Sex. George Eliot compared the character Dorothea to St. Teresa in Middlemarch. Thomas Hardy took Teresa as the inspiration for much of the heroine Tess (Teresa) in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, a character who in one scene lies in a field and senses her soul ecstatically above her.

Saint Teresa appears in a few contemporary songs: “Theresa’s Sound-World” by Sonic Youth and in “Saint Teresa” by Joan Osborne.

But none of those allusions have had as much of an impact on me as reading The Interior Castle through the lens of a 13-year-old boy discovering another kind of love.



Do you sometimes feel the need to center yourself? If so, what does that mean?

It is a term I have encountered in a number of situations including meditation, including both in a religious and spiritual sense.

A plain old dictionary definition of “to center” would tell you it means to have something as a major concern or theme, as in “the book centers around how people interact with nature.” Synonyms include to focus, concentrate, pivot, hinge, or revolve.

We even use the scientific term “center of gravity” (or more accurately the center of mass) is that unique point where the weighted relative position of the distributed mass sums to zero. The body is balanced around the center.

If I asked you to be still, close your eyes and “find your center,” what would you do? Possibly you would become more conscious of your body, your breath and the tension in your muscles. Without any training, you would be meditating.


There are books that combine this centering concept with other less spiritual practices, as in Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person.

When I first encountered meditation, through investigating Zen Buddhism, I was given the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones. It is a one volume collection of four original sources for Zen: Zen Stories, The Gateless Gate, Bulls, and Centering Together. That last book shows you that this concept of finding your center is a key part of Zen practice.

The book contains many centering practices and you can find many of them on websites too.

Some of these sources will remind you that “Zen is nothing new, neither is it anything old. Long before Buddha was born the search was on in India, as the present work shows. Long after man has forgotten such words as Zen and Buddha, satori and koan, China and Japan and America – still the search will go on, still Zen will be seen even in flower, and grass-blade, before the sun.”

If you have participated in a meditation class (or if you just watch a ten-minute meditation video online), the introductory portion is generally a kind of centering exercise.


If you move from spiritual to religious practice, you will encounter centering prayer. This is a method of silent prayer that is very contemplative. It is often described as prayer that is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

Father Thomas Keating has been a key figure in the centering prayer movement since the 1970s. It is not a new practice and it has roots in Christian history. I took a life-changing religion and literature course in college that exposed me to the Desert Fathers and Mothers to The Cloud of Unknowing, St John of the Cross, and St Teresa of Avila.

Religious groups are careful not to allow centering prayer to cross over into a version of New-Age spirituality.

Many religions encourage a kind of “centering prayer.” Catholics are advised to meditate in some form daily — such as on the rosary, or on Scripture (lectio divina). This practice makes use of a “sacred word” which might sound similar to using a mantra to others.

Mantra (a Sanskrit word meaning a sacred utterance, word, or phrase) is believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power. A mantra may not even be syntactic nor have any literal meaning. The spiritual value of a mantra comes when it is made audible, visible or present in thought.

Earliest mantras were composed in Vedic times by Hindus in India, and those are at least 3000 years old. Now they are found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and similar hymns or chants are found in Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Christianity and elsewhere.

Thomas Keating emphasizes that centering prayer is not an exercise in concentrating, or focusing one’s attention on something such as a mantra. Rather, it is concerned with intention and to “consent to God’s presence and action during the time of prayer.”

Centering prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. It is the opening of your whole being. I the sense of prayer, opening to God, but in other spiritual practices it might be opening to the Ultimate Mystery, a life force, energy or the universe.

Keating is a monk in the Cistercian Order in the Benedictine tradition. He has written many books, including the best-selling Open Mind, Open Heart. He lives at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado where he established a program of 10-Day Centering Prayer retreats, which are now held world-wide.

I’m not sure he would be happy with the definition that Centering Prayer is a form of “Christian” transcendental meditation, but he has presented the Centering Prayer method and its related mystical theology to workshops of non-Christians. He has also used it as a kind of therapy and has written a book on centering prayer and the twelve steps.


I used to teach classes in using a map and compass. One of the first things you teach in the field is orienting a map.  You position it so that North is actually pointing north. When you orient a map and know where you are on the map, you can look in a certain direction and see a real landmark and find it on the map. You find your place in the world. For me, it always felt like a kind of centering.

I also like the idea of using triangulation. That is the process of pinpointing the location of something by taking bearings to it from two remote points and find where the lines intersect on a map. Without knowing where you are, you find your place by looking at your relationship to known things.


If you knew how to use it,
then starting anywhere,
turning any direction,
you could check,
find your bearings,
tell where you came from,
know where you were going.

If you knew when you entered these woods
where you wanted to be
at the end of this journey,
it would have taken you there.
If you knew how to use it.
If you knew when you entered.
If you knew where you wanted to be.

Bookmarking Serenity In Your Life

Back a few years ago, the program, Speaking of Faith, did an episode on Reinhold Niebuhr. As part of that show, they had to do some research on where the Serenity Prayer originated. Many people had credited Niebuhr with writing it sometime during World War II.

Most people have seen or heard this prayer which begins “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” It seems to transcend religions and has entered popular culture. (You can find it printed on plaques, mugs etc. for better or worse.) It was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.

I recall it being in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. It was in a good film, Rachel Getting Married, last year. It was on an episode of King of the Hill – the school principal asks Hank “Are you familiar with the serenity prayer Hank? Cause this is one of those things I can’t change.”

I’m not that concerned about whether or not Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the prayer, and I like that the prayer has been adopted and adapted by others.

Every once and awhile, it crosses into my life again. I came across a copy of the prayer today on a sheet of paper folded into one of my old journals from late 2001. I know just why it was in there. A bookmark on my life.

I don’t know if you literally bookmark things in your life with paper in a book very often, but we all certainly set bookmarks in our life using objects. I could create a long list of things that bring me back in a flash to a time in my life – books, ticket stubs, a pebble, a record album, a restaurant receipt, airline ticket, vacation souvenirs…

I guess we are more likely to intentionally bookmark the good times in our lives, but I think we also mark the bad times, perhaps unintentionally.

That folded copy of the serenity prayer takes me back to an early winter that was difficult for many people following the events of September. I would have told you then that those events were not the reason that I had crashed into a depression, but looking back today, that bookmark reminds me how distorted my perceptions were then.

That paper bookmarks not only the start of a really bad period in my life, but also a very early sign of how I would pull out of that period – a process that took about four years.

I don’t follow the prayer as a life philosophy. I don’t accept all my hardships and just trust that anyone will make things rights. I firmly believe that you are the most important cause of change in your life. But the first seven lines of the serenity prayer are an approach that I do try to follow.

There are, for me, two parts to the prayer. The first part (minus God) is almost Buddhist. The second half is more Christian. But I read it as a sonnet – 14 lines of direction, two parallel, but separate paths.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

If all this is not in your philosophy, maybe you can take some comfort in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip version of the prayer: “Know what I pray for? The strength to change what I can, the inability to accept what I can’t and the incapacity to tell the difference.”

Doing Intention

I don’t really feel guilty that I have read Dan Brown’s booksAngels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and last month, The Lost Symbol. As an English major and teacher for many years, I have read a lot of the books that get shelved in the “Literature” shelves, so some fast fiction reads are completely justified.

I like that Brown touches on a lot of other books and topics that I end up wanting to now more about. In The Lost Symbol,  a book that he mentions is The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World. That book got a nice sales spike , and brought attention to its author’s work.

Dan Brown writes:

“…human consciousness, as Noetic author Lynne McTaggart described it, was a substance outside the confines of the body. A highly ordered energy capable of changing the physical world. Katherine had been fascinated by McTaggart’s book The Intention Experiment, and her global, Web-based study – – aimed at discovering how human intention could affect the world.”

Some people have compared the intention experiment (and “doing intention”) as a kind of praying without religion.  Lynne McTaggart interviewed many intention masters in her research including Qigong masters, Buddhist monks, master healers – and also scientists.

In simple terms, if a group of people (10, 1000, a million, millions…) direct their intentions towards a single purpose will it have an effect on events? What if the people are disconnected and distant from each other and the event?

I told a friend the theory and he said, “Oh, like the Force in Star Wars movies?”  That makes it seem silly, but it’s not he worst analogy.  A catastrophic event occurs on Earth and millions turn their attention and intentions towards it. Could that be measured?

It seems to me to be related in a way to McKenna’s Time Wave where intention is described (somewhat differently) as novelty.

Is her work real science? I don’t know.  Is The Lost Symbol real literature?

Here’s McTaggart interviewed on quantum physics, consciousness, time and intention, interviewed by Alan Steinfeld.

Even if you are a scientist based at Princeton University, that doesn’t mean you will be taken seriously when you work in these realms. The Global Consciousness Project, also called the EGG Project, is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists and others.

On their website,, they describe their work this way:

We collect data continuously from a global network of physical random number generators located in 65 host sites around the world. The archive contains more than 10 years of random data in parallel sequences of synchronized 200-bit trials every second.

Our purpose is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We predict structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events. When millions of us share intentions and emotions the GCP/EGG network data show meaningful departures from expectation. This is a powerful finding based in solid science.

Subtle but real effects of consciouness are important scientifically, but their real power is more direct. They encourage us to help make essential, healthy changes in the great systems that dominate our world. Large scale group consciousness has effects in the physical world. Knowing this, we can use our full capacities for creative movement toward a conscious future.

Can they track something happening in a global consciousness that coincides with an event – for example, the election of President Obama? They believe they can.

The history of controlled laboratory research on interactions of human consciousness with physical random systems tracks the development of microelectronics and computers. The first large database experiments were conducted by Helmut Schmidt, at Boeing Laboratories, in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The number of experiments and investigators grew over the next decade, and in 1979, Robert Jahn, at Princeton University, established the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory to focus on an engineering approach to the question whether sensitive electronic devices including random components might be affected by special states of consciousness, including strong emotions and directed intention. The PEAR lab closed in 2007.

Noetic theory or noëtics is a branch of metaphysical philosophy concerned with the study of mind and intuition, and its relationship with the divine intellect.

Can out collective thoughts change what happens in the world?