An Interview with Lynne McTaggert by Julie Loar
The following is a transcript of an interview conducted by Satiama Radio moderator Julie Loar. Ms. Loar’s questions are in bold.
(JULIE LOAR) We are very fortunate to be interviewing best-selling author Lynne McTaggert. Lynne is one of the central authorities on the new science of consciousness. She’s the award-winning author of seven books, including the international best seller, The Intention Experiment and The Field. She’s also Editorial Director of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, one of the world’s most respected health magazines, and architect of the Intention Experiment, a web-based global laboratory. Lynne is a highly sought after public speaker and consistently listed as one of the world’s 100 Most Spiritually Influential People. Lynne and her husband, author and WDDTY, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, co-founder Brian Hubbard, live in London and have two adult daughters. Lynne, welcome. We are so thrilled to have you hear this morning.
(Lynne McTaggert) Thanks. It’s great to be with you.
Well, you’re a pioneer for sure in the evolving discipline of the study of consciousness. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a really long time. And as I was preparing to have this conversation with you, I was reminded of the famous story Carl Jung told when he was in his own process of discovering about synchronicity. It’s a story about a golden scarab. Do you know it? Do you know this one?
No, go ahead and tell me.
It’s a fabulous story. He had a client, a psychiatric client who he described as absolutely frozen in Cartesian logic, and he could not penetrate anything to move into a different state of consciousness with her. And one day in his office, she was telling him a story about a powerful dream she had the night before, where someone had given her a golden scarab that was extremely valuable. And she was telling him the story when Jung was distracted by something clicking on the window, and it wouldn’t go away, and it was interrupting the process. So he turned around, opened the window, and grabbed the insect, which was a scarab beetle. He handed it to the woman and said, “Here is your golden scarab.” It completely broke through to what, in this context, we’ll call the field and transformed her receptivity to be healed.
Isn’t that a fabulous story?
That is a great story.
So you say in your writings that you changed from a skeptic to a believer. So I’d love for our listeners to hear a couple of your loaves-and-fishes miracles, as you called them, and why you feel you had a hard time handling miracles in the beginning.
Okay, well I have a background as an investigative reporter. That’s where I started out my career. I mean, I was busting baby selling rings when I first started out as a journalist. So I came from a kind of background of hard fact, and that was really my work in my 20s and 30s. When I worked on and founded, worked on a newsletter called What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and it was very fact-based. It is still very fact-based. We look at what works and what doesn’t work in conventional and alternative medicine. And while I was sympathetic to alternative medicine, I was very much, as I said, tied to fact. I had started getting interested in why things like spiritual healing work, because I kept thinking to myself, if you have a thought, and you can send it to someone else and make them better, that in itself undermines everything we think about how the world works. So I wanted to explore why this works, and that really led me into researching what frontier scientists were doing in this area.
I thought I was going to find something simple, like human energy fields. But what I found was really a lot of studies into some pretty revolutionary views about the nature of consciousness and the idea that are thoughts aren’t locked inside our head but are trespassers and can affect other people and things. And so I wrote up my book, The Field, which was about this whole view of us being part of one giant energy field and that extended human potential. But there was some leftover business, and it was really all about trying to figure out how powerful thoughts are. And about that time, things like The Secret were coming out and a lot of stuff about the law of attraction. And with my journalistic background, all I had were sort of awkward questions. I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, if this is such a powerful thing, why are we using it to manifest parking spaces? Why don’t we use it to cure cancer or cure the world? And also, what can you do with it? Can you do something major, like end a war with it? And does it multiply if lots of people are thinking the same thought at the same time?” So with my next book, The Intention Experiment, it was actually a living book in that I invited my readers every so often to do an intention experiment that would be set up by one of the credible scientists that I knew at one of the prestigious universities like the University of Arizona or Penn State University or University of California. I had a coterie and scientist who were willing to put these experiments together. So I felt like I was going to test this stuff to the limit. I was kind of like a 21st Century doubting Thomas when it came to MBS, and I was going to test it to the limit. And I was going to see, okay, I’m going to have the biggest study in the world of consciousness, and let’s see what we can do with it. So we ran 30 of these experiments to date, everything from trying to make seeds grow faster to trying to lower violence in a war zone and heal somebody with PTSD, and they were always well-controlled studies by these scientists. And of the 30 experiments, 26 have shown measurable positive, significant, mostly significant results.
Now just to get that in context, there’s almost no drug on the market that has that kind of good track record, but actually that’s not the point of the story. That’s not my road to Damascus. What happened to me that really changed my world view was of course the idea that (inaudible) thing affect other things, but even more powerfully, that the biggest effect that I’ve found was not on the targets but on the intenders themselves. And that’s what started blowing my mind. I mean, as people were involved in things like the peace intention experiments, I decided just to find out what was going on with them. I thought, “Well, I’ll survey them and see how that experience was for them,” mainly to find out if they could get on the website and whether it was mechanically a good experience. And I started getting responses back like this, “I felt like I was wired up to a higher network. I had tingling all across my body and started sobbing uncontrollably. I felt like I was in the tractor beam to Star Trek. I felt this unbelievable sense of unity. I had an altered-state experience. It stopped as soon as the experiment stopped,” stuff like that. And then I started finding that a giant percentage, and this is thousands of people on the first peace experiment we did in 2008 were having major peaceful transformations in their own lives. It was something like 40% of them said that they were acting more loving to everybody they came in contact with, but particularly strangers. I mean, people were hugging strangers after this, and they were getting physical healing in huge amounts. They were getting all kinds of aftershocks, changing their jobs. Some of them decided to quit their jobs and join the Peace Corps. I mean, it was extraordinary. I was just dumbfounded by this. So this, and then the other piece of this was when I started running little workshops around the same time. I thought to myself, “Well, this is an experiential thing. I should run a workshop. That’s what you’re supposed to do.” But I’m a journalist, so again, I’m not a personal development trainer or a healer. So I didn’t know how to do this, so I was just kicking it around with my husband who is also a journalist. And I said, “Well, I don’t know what we should do. Maybe we should put them into small groups of about eight and have them send healing intention to each other.” And he said, “Yeah, I like it, the power of eight.” He’s a really good headline writer.
So we started, we had our first workshops, and our first one in Chicago we had 100 and something people, and we put them into small groups of eight, and we asked them to send healing intentions to one of the members of the group with a health challenge. I’m making it up as I go along basically, because I have no idea what to do, other than I had created a program about intention, how to do intention-based on working with intention masters, like (inaudible) masters and master healers. And I distilled their common practices into a simple program that I published in Intention Experiment. So I could tell them that, but in terms of what to do in a group, I just said, “Well, all hold hands. Don’t break the circle. Or you could put your hands on the person like the spokes of a wheel, all hold the same intention statement, do this, do that,” making it up completely. So the next day, I asked them to come back the next day and report on how they felt. This is the receivers. And I figured it would feel a little bit like a massage or a facial or something, a little feel-good exercise.
A little kumbaya moment, right?
Absolutely. They come up, they line up, they take the mic in turn, and they say things like this, “I’ve had migraines all my life, and my head feels clear for the first time in years.” “I was walking normally. I had arthritis, and it’s been really painful with this knee. That pain is completely gone.” “I have cataracts, and they are 80% better.” One other woman with scoliosis said her back was suddenly, she was totally pain-free, and she wrote me a month later to say her back is so much straighter that they had to change the rear view mirror in her car, her family, and on and on like this. And I was just dumbfounded and also highly suspicious and didn’t believe a word of it. I thought this is some sort of placebo effect, mass hysteria. In every workshop I ran from then until now, we’ve had the same effects over and over and over again. I was so frightened by this. People with multiple sclerosis coming in the next day without their crutches, it was like the lame were walking. And I never have billed myself as a healer, don’t consider myself a healer, consider myself very much a journalist, observer, writer, author. And so I hated this, because I thought it was going to undermine my real experiments. So I sort of buried the lead of the story, as a journalist would tell you. I didn’t talk about this. I would run it in my workshops and study it, but I refused to talk about it. It wasn’t until, this happened almost ten years ago it began, and it was only with my husband’s huge and consistent prodding that I finally decided, yeah, I need to write about this. And also, I need to study this more and actually test it, which I did.
Well, that brings us to your next big project. You have a series on Gaia.com. I’m a subscriber, and you’re launching what you’re calling the American Peace Intention Experiment as an online project. I’ll be talking a little bit more about this to make sure people learn about it to participate. I’ve signed up, by the way.
Oh yes, I mean as I said, I’m a huge fan. Part of the questions of course here, I want to say the date, September 30th to October 5th each day at 9:00 AM Pacific and 12:00 PM Eastern time. It sounds a bit like a trick question to ask you what prompted you to choose America.
America really needs our help at the moment. I mean, I’ve been doing some live experiments on places like, I’m in the UK, because we’ve had these terrorist bombings, I live in the UK, we’re going to be running one in November in the Middle East, but I think everyone would agree that America needs our help right now. So what we’re doing is we’re targeting the most violent places in America, one of the most violent places in America. But the interesting thing about this experiment is that yes, we’re targeting someplace. We have a team of scientists who will measure the effect, we’ll see if we have an effect, and I hope we do. I mean, in our other peace experiments, we have had what seemed to be an effect, but again, that’s not really the point of the exercise. The point of the exercise is to induce peace in all of the participants, which becomes a radiating effect that radiates out to their environment, creating peace and connection and forgiveness.
This idea came to me because of the effect of an experiment I ran for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of those buildings coming down, that we have to see the towers burning and collapsing, that we have to watch every anniversary of 9/11. So when the tenth anniversary rolled around, I decided I really wanted to offer up an alternative. So I contacted an associate I know called Dr. Salah Al Rashed, who is like the Deepak Chopra of the Middle East. He’s got tens of thousands of followers, and he’s a real peace advocate. He basically brought personal development to the Middle East. And he has hosted a number of talks I’ve given there. I asked him to join me in this experiment, and he delightedly did. So I invited my Western audience and international audience, and he invited his Arab audience to take part. So together, we did over eight days an intention to lower violence in two southern provinces of Afghanistan. And after the event, we waited a month to get data, and we studied the, we had a statistician once again look at our information from a couple of years before, the violence levels to several months afterwards as supplied by NATO. And there were just unprecedented lowerings of violence in those two provinces, as compared to the rest of the country. So that was compelling, but it isn’t really the most interesting part of the study. The most interesting part of it happened on my Facebook pages and instant messaging, social media pages. The Arabs and Americans started Facebook-ing each other and saying hello. And they started writing to each other and befriending each other, and before long they began forgiving each other. So I thought, “Wow, that is so powerful. That’s so interesting.” And there’s a lot of evidence that engaging in an altruistic act such as this basically fires a thing called the Vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. And that, in turn, fires a lot of things in the body, like the hormone oxytocin, the things that make us more loving. And what they found in some studies is that doing something altruistic like that fires all the machinery in the body that basically makes us more loving to people who are not like us. So all of that made me think, “Boy, Republicans and Democrats need to come together in America.”
So maybe if we do this peace intention experiment, it will radiate out. It will have a ripple effect out in some small way.” So that’s the real plan. It’s not just going to be about our target. It’s going to be about our intenders, too. This is really going to be a transformational experience for the intenders as well as it has been for many thousands of people who have participated in our experiments before. And people, you’ll see on the program, it’s a half-hour show. A portion of each are the experiential intention itself for the people watching. But there’s also a lot of information about the intention experiments, people who have had these rebound effects in intention experiments, and also people have been involved in Power of Eight groups. We even have a couple of Power of Eight groups from a local unity church that took part just as an experiment. And we have the outcome from them too. So there’s a lot of things on there that people can learn about and can do for themselves. And also, it’s my hope that people just in the act of participation are going to experience a transformation.
Fantastic. And just to do a little plug for Gaia.com as well, Lynne’s program is one of a series there, and it’s well worth finding out about this if you haven’t. They have wonderful programs, and I’m thrilled that your material is on there as well.
You know, just to put another plug in for Gaia, I want to say that this is one of their few totally free events. There’s no cost involved for this whatsoever. They have put their studios and their resources at my disposal. I have a whole camera team. I have people who are involved in all kinds of areas of production, etc., putting these things together for everyone to view for free. So all you need to do is sign up, but do honor them too, because they have done a wonderful thing. I should mention it’s an easy signup. It’s AmericanIntentionExperiment.com.
Right, and I’m going to repeat that a couple of times. Thank you for mentioning that. And that link does go direct to Gaia, by the way. They are hosting it, so AmericanIntentionExperiment.com, and I’ll mention again Lynne’s American Peace Intention Experiment, September 30 to October 5 this year, 9:00 AM Pacific, 12:00 PM Eastern time. This is an opportunity for all of our listeners, for people everywhere to take part in what is likely to be the world’s largest experiment for peace and to transform your own life. You’re expecting tens of thousands of people to participate, right?
Yes. We are already getting thousands and thousands of signups, and we’re writing to them too to explain to people exactly what to expect and how to participate. And once they sign up, they’ll get some e-mails from me as well to explain exactly what to do. And then they’ll just receive the URLs to take part just a few hours before the experiments begin. So they just have to keep an eye on their e-mails. There’s some technical reasons why Gaia has to do it up to the last minute, but that’s basically the way they have to do it. So people will just receive that. But we’re just so excited by the numbers of people around the world who are signing up.
Well, it’s terrific. And as I listen to you and am aware of your work, it’s always, there’s a bit of a reluctant Messiah sort of aspect of this. But you were trained in the objective way to observe something. So you didn’t just fall into some sort of spell about the magic of it all. You kept looking, and I was reminded, also as I was preparing this, I was reminded of a book that had a big impression on me, Cosmos and Psyche by Rick Tarnas who essentially founded the California Institute of Integral Studies. And in the beginning of his book, he describes this process that consciousness has gone through where earlier consciousness had a sense of primal unity. There wasn’t this separation. And he described the development of what he calls the Western mind, which became so concrete and objective that we completely became separated from the larger reality of which we are a part. So I really want to solute you and other in this field because it feels like you’re literally working and giving us all the awareness to regain that sense of unity and participation in the larger reality of what we’re a part. So in what ways do you think this new experiment is going to further what you’ve done so far? So kind of what’s next after this?
Well, I think what is going to further is people understanding that, well a couple of pieces here. One is they’ll feel the psychic Internet that we can create, and that in itself is a biggie. The idea that we can all be separated in our computer screens around the world and nevertheless feel this incredible, palpable sense of oneness and energy that occurs when I run these things. And that was the thing when I was first doing, I thought, “Wow, it feels like my own computer’s heat and energy is coming off of this. I can feel this. It’s almost unbearable.” And I thought, “Oh, my mind is really playing tricks on me. What is this?” And the more I started experimenting with this, the more I found that this is really the case and that we can have this optic, like for instance one of my experiments, early experiments was trying to make seeds grow faster. And we had four sets of seeds with this experiment, and we ran it six times. And we would ask an Internet audience or an actual audience if I was speaking in front of some place to choose one set of the four seeds and to send intention to it. Now the first time I ran this, we were working with the University of Arizona. So I was in Sydney, Australia with an audience of 700. The seeds were in Tucson, Arizona at the University of Arizona’s lab. And so they were 8,000 miles away. And also, we weren’t sending intention to the thing, the seeds themselves. We were sending intention to a photograph of the seeds. That was it. Nevertheless, we had a big effect.
As we did, every time I ran that in any circumstance, whether in front of an Internet audience or in front of an actual audience, large or small, we had a big effect. In one case, the seeds grew about twice as high as the controls. So that is a real demonstration of the psychic Internet. So I think people will experience, to answer your question, people will experience that psychic Internet, but I hope they’ll also feel, experience, and take into their lives the transformational power of altruism. Now I’m not talking about a nice, little, feel-good buzz. I’m talking about a transformation in your life, from getting off of yourself. One of the big messages that I got in studying, and I studied a group of 250 people, I wanted my own Petri dish. So I put 250 people into seminars and then put them in these groups for a whole year and observed them and monitored them month by month to see what was going on with them. And of the people who maintained participation in their groups regularly, that’s about 150 people who came every week to their groups, pretty much 100% of them had major, major life transformations. They healed long-standing illnesses, like chronic fatigue, depression, vitiligo, hearing loss. They had major changes of careers. They got dream jobs. Those that asked them, they sold best-selling books. They mended estranged relationships. They found dream homes. It was just amazing. A lot started their own businesses and had great startups. It was just extraordinary. I was just, I also studied, I wasn’t satisfied with that, so I wanted to look at what happens to people in these little groups. Why are they so transformational?
So Life University, I had spoken there, and they very kindly offered to do some studies with me in the psychology department. So a neuroscientist, an experienced neuroscientist worked with me, and we measured brain waves on groups of eight people, people who were in these little groups, sending intention. We looked at the senders each time, and there were people who had never done this before. Most of them had never even meditated. Nevertheless, there were extraordinary changes in their brains that were basically a global quieting of a lot of areas of the brain, specifically and particularly the parietal lobes, which are the part of the brain that governs our sense of self versus not self and telling us where we end and the rest of the world begins basically. And also the executive portions of the brain, the frontal lobes, particularly the areas involved with worry, doubt, negativity, that kind of stuff, and these were turned on low basically. And what that really said and suggested was these people were in a real sense of unity consciousness.
They were in a, they really felt a communion with everyone there, and they felt extensive unity with other people and with the world. And in fact, when we compared our outcomes to the brainwave signatures of a batch of different kinds of people studied by Dr. Andrew Newburg of the University of Pennsylvania, Sufi masters, Buddhist monks in ecstatic prayer, the brainwave signatures were virtually identical. But the real difference was, so these people were in a state of ecstatic oneness, but the difference was those other kind of disciplines require years or practice. They require hours of priming to get into that state. And with our situation, all of the people who were involved in my study, all they had was as 13-minute video from me telling them what to do. That was it. That was it. They just dropped it. It was not me. It wasn’t my instructions. It was the group. And here is the interesting thing. What this really suggests is you don’t need a sweat lodge or Iowaska or years of practice or any of those kinds of extraordinary, heroic disciplines to get in a state of unity consciousness. All you need is a group and a common intention. And it’s essentially a fast track to the miraculous.
What’s the smallest group that you’ve found effective?
That’s a great question, because I have so many people say to me, “So what’s the significance of eight? It must be sacred geometry,” and I said, “No, it’s a happy accident. It’s just something I just thought of for a minute.” But to be honest, you don’t have to have eight. You can have six. You can have nine. It works just as well. BUt thought of for a minute.’.common intention. heroic disciplines to get in a state of unity consciousness.arly the parietal lI would recon that anything lower than about 4 or bigger than 12, you know 4 is getting too small, and 12 is unwieldy. But I think anything in between works really well. I’d say eight aside from the happy accident because it’s a nice medium number. It’s like an optimum number. But it’s not totally necessary.
That is so exciting, and of course as you say, the Buddhist monks and other who do those lifelong practices, but what your research is telling us is that we’re already wired for this, but that being part of a group reaches a sort of critical mass of energy or plugging into. But this is transformation in the extreme in terms of its power to heal the world. It’s remarkable.
You know, what was really interesting to me was trying to find antecedents to this, because I figured, hey, I didn’t think of this. I didn’t invent this. Somebody thought of this before me. So I was looking, and I was going through esoteric practices and talking to experts in areas of ancient wisdom and healing, etc., to try to find where this started. And I really was fascinated to come across a sermon from a well-known preacher of the early 1900s who talked about the fact that there has been a mistranslation in the Bible and that in the Acts of the Bible, which are the part where the apostles begin to set up the church and start going around, doing things together, and healing, they talk about, it’s about 12 times, the King James version has the term, “They prayed with one accord,” which when you find out the original, the original which was written in Hellenic Greek, uses instead of ‘with one accord’, which is kind of an anemic term, they use the term ‘homothumedon,’ which is an adverb which comes from music, and it means essentially ‘with one voice’, with one passionate voice.
Think of instruments playing individually and then coming together for a Beethoven symphony, this unbelievable passionate onrush of togetherness. And that’s really what it means, and what the Bible says is that apparently Jesus told the Apostles, he kept telling them, “Pray,” with thus homothumedon, “Pray passionately with one voice, and you will heal people, you will be healed, etc.” Now that was pretty fascinating to me, because I also thought about, well, he was telling them to pray as a group all the time and pray with one voice. And that’s so interesting. Maybe there was something important about the 12. One of the first things they did was put a replacement in for Judas who hung himself, betrayed Jesus and hung himself. So was the number important? A lot of people, the assumption has been that the 12 meant the 12 tribes of Israel. But maybe it was a critical mass of some sort. I don’t know, and certainly I don’t know if this is the case, but it suggests that what they were trying to do, what they had been told to do, was pray ecstatically with one voice.
I love that. Well, our time is almost up. Before I do another explanation of the program, is there anything else that you feel our listeners should know about this, Lynne? You’re a modern heroine, for sure, in terms the work and sharing your own transformation with people and being willing to do this work, which has the potential that we need at this powerful time on earth, at a time of a changing of ages. So many things are happening that I always feel we have the opportunity to grasp the potential of the change. Or on the other side, we can cling to the past, the feeling that nothing should change. Do you have any other words you’d like to share with us as a call to action?
Yeah, I mean I think one of the great things, and I hope the empowering message of my book and the Gaia show, is to demonstrate to people that you don’t have to be president to make big changes, that people can make huge transformations that radiate out to their community with just a little group of eight. And this is something you can set up with your book group, with your church group, with your group at work, with your neighborhood, and just set up your own little group and start doing group intentions and start watching what happens to your life and everyone else. And the other piece of this, this is so important, is intending for someone else and how that has a rebound effect on you. We talk about the self-help movement all the time. I think it needs to be the other help movement, because what I’ve discovered is, getting off of yourself is the surest way to heal yourself.
Yes. So again, here’s an opportunity for our listeners and to spread the word, an opportunity literally, perhaps unprecedented, likely unprecedented, to join tens of thousands of like-minded others from around the world for this free event, sending collective intention to reduce violence and heal America’s polarized society. And as Lynne has said, we can’t yet know what that powerful reciprocity will be that will come back into our own lives as a force for healing. So join Lynne, take part in this huge experiment for peace, and transform your own life from September 30th to October 5th, 2017, coming up soon, 9:00 AM Pacific time, 12:00 PM Eastern time, every day. Go to AmericanIntentionExperiment.com to sign up. It’s really easy. I did it. And this will be hosted and sponsored, if I’m saying that correctly, but Gaia.com. And as Gandhi has said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Take part in something with such transformation potential. Lynne, we’re thrilled to have you today. Thank you so much for taking time out of your incredibly busy interview. And we’ll be talking to Lynne next month about her book, The Power of Eight, so we’re really looking forward to that as well. So thank you, from Satiama Radio. We’re immensely grateful, and all the best to you in this experiment and everything else.
Thank you so much.
You are so welcome. We will be in touch soon.
Great, thank you. Take care.