Friday, May 29, 2009

Mind Power: Can It Move Machines?

We have all heard about people bending spoons and stopping clocks using their power of concentration. But does it really work? Can mind power really influence mechanical things?

I was recently reading The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, my review of which appears elsewhere on this blog. While reading the book, I came across something interesting about mind power there. Here is the short passage from the book that speaks about it:

From 1973 through 1975…a researcher named Duane Elgin conducted a remarkable series of exercises at Stanford Research institute, attempting to influence a sensitive, heavily shielded magnetometer by his intentionality alone. The magnetometer measures changes in a magnetic field and records these changes on a moving sheet of paper.

The first few exercises generally followed the same course. Elgin would sit or stand a few feet from the magnetometer, where he could see the recording device, and would focus all the force of his will on the instrument, trying to influence it and thus make the needle move. He could continue this concentrated effort for twenty to thirty minutes, watching the needle tracing an almost straight line – but with no results. Finally, exhausted and exasperated, he would say to himself, “I give up.” At that moment, the needle would start indicating a change in the magnetic field. These changes were by no means insignificant. In some of Elgin’s exercises, the needle went entirely off the scale; to get such results by normal means would take a force estimated to be one thousand times stronger than that of the earth’s magnetic field. Nor did physical distance lessen Elgin’s effectiveness. In one instance, he was able to affect the magnetometer strongly from his home several miles away.

Later, Elgin learned to refine his technique. “I’d spend twenty to thirty minutes doing the best I could to establish a sense of rapport and connectedness with the instrument, and with great will and concentration I would coalesce that sense of connectedness into a field of palpable energy. I’d feel myself coming into a magnetic field and pulsing it to respond. Then, when there would be a moment of total surrender, the response would occur.”[1]

The power of the mind is enormous. The Yoga Vasishtha, a classic text of Vedanta that discusses the nature and powers of the mind in great details, says that as minds we have limitless power at our command. “Thought in the forms of desire, imagination, effort, and will is the most potent force in the world. Mind is endowed with creative power. In its creative activity mind is absolutely free. We all attain to what we aspire after. All that we intensely desire and make efforts for comes to us sooner or later. In fact, our own efforts guided by our aspirations are the warp and woof of our destiny. Our lives are what we make them by our thoughts. The world around us changes in accordance with our own thoughts.”[2]

[1] The Life We Are Given, by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, Editions India, an imprint of Stone Hill Foundation Publishing, Kochi, Kerala, India.

[2] The Philosophy of Yoga Vasishtha, by Bhikhan Lal Atreya in The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. III, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata.

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