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Deepak Chopra on Reality

Deepak Chopra

Co-author, ‘Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream’; Founder, The Chopra Foundation

Can Reality Set Us Free? The Puzzle of Complementarity

by Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

We promised at the outset to explain the nature of reality by going to its very heart. To all appearances reality is dual. The objective world exists “out there” to be measured, but its existence is known only through subjective experience, which is “in here.”  Both worlds need each other, and to be trapped in only one is unsatisfactory. The world turns into a dream only if you are conscious of your inner feelings, moods, sensations, and images. Yet if you rely only upon the physical world, you may wind up with meaningless data that don’t provide any link to what is truly important in everyday life. This point is easy enough to see, but joining the two worlds into wholeness isn’t easy.

Indeed, the task is so difficult that science proceeds as if it can exclude the mysterious, unreliable world “in here,” preferring measures of reality that can be reduced to quantifiable numbers.  As a result, all of us have become used to balancing two versions of reality, and we do it almost without thinking. A summer day can be 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a fact, or it can be warm, which is a sensation. The two are not synonymous. “Warm” is a purely subjective statement, and it has no correlation to the thermometer. (After a subzero winter in Antarctica, 32 degrees F. feels warm, whereas compared to the inside of a volcano, 90 degrees F. is cool.)

Is there a way to join these two halves of reality?  Most people aren’t concerned with such a question, but we posit that wholeness — seeing reality exactly for what it is — would set the human mind, and human life itself, free. The cosmos is a cold prison measured as meaningless data extracted from random events. To be human is to crave meaning, and yet intellectual honesty compels us not to accept easy answers. It is too easy, for example, to say that God created the universe, and since God loves us, the universe is our loving home. Such answers once sufficed, but four hundred years of scientific theories and data to back them up have swamped us.  Overwhelmed by facts about the world “out there,” it is a struggle to give the world “in here” the validity it deserves.

Our trek to wholeness, as outlined in the first two posts, involves the quantum principle of complementarity, whose purpose is to make some of Nature’s seeming paradoxes compatible. (Please refer to the previous posts to see how this repair job on duality works.) Essentially, complementarity holds that opposites need each other — they cannot be complete in themselves without the other “half”. The classic example is the opposition of particle and wave, which look and act totally different but which are the inescapable reality of quanta.  Complementarity is critical because it asserts that there is only one reality, and no matter how much it shifts its shape as we look from different perspectives, all the angles from which reality can be seen must ultimately fit together. This is comparable to all the tourist photos taken of the Grand Canyon. No matter how many there are, what time of day or night when they were taken, and irrespective of the million aspects of the canyon that were chosen, the whole collection of photos can’t depict different Grand Canyons — there is only one in the first place.

Unfortunately, things aren’t this simple when we substitute “reality” for “Grand Canyon,” because from the perspective of “in here” there is no proof that the external world exists independently of conscious awareness. At the same time, using only scientific data gathered “out there,” there is no proof of the subjective world, either. An MRI scan can show the brain centers for pain lighting up, yet if you ask someone “How much does your arthritis hurt today?” only their subjective report is valid.  Even consciousness itself is only inferred by watching the brain light up.  A brain scan is actually a very complicated version of those cartoons where a light bulb goes off when somebody, usually an egghead professor, has a bright idea. The light bulb can’t tell you what the bright idea actually is, and neither can an MRI.

Thus in order to see reality as a whole, we have to ask something incredibly basic: Why did creation split into subject and object in the first place? They are so wildly incompatible that this split has dogged and troubled humankind for centuries. Couldn’t God or the multiverse or random chance have come up with something much simpler, a reality that holds together properly? It doesn’t seem all that much to ask.

The two worlds “in here” and “out there” are either split for a reason or it just happened that way.  If it just happened that way, fine.  Science will go on, and so will subjective experience, and the two will uneasily meet somewhere in the brain. But if “in here” and “out there” are split for a reason, that’s a new story.  There have been many versions of the story so far. In many cultures, there was once a Golden Age that was innocent, pure, and untroubled (in other words, whole) while now we live in a fallen age, and our separation from God or the gods has resulted in a fragmented world.  Good is forced to come to terms with its opposite, evil, and therefore a reality of light and darkness envelops us. Needless, to say, such a story has not been satisfactory in a rational, scientific age.  It persists as myth and religion, which billions of people still prefer to science.

We come closer to a rational story via complementarity, because when complementarity holds that opposites have a hidden unity at the limit of observation (revealed through mathematics), a complete view of quantum physics is satisfied.  An opposite pair light wave and particle arise from the same source, and even if this source is beyond the five senses, lying in some invisible virtual domain, quantum mechanics can link the opposites and thus make every measurement turn out right.  By extension, can we say the same about “in here” and “out there”? Do they spring from a common source?

Our answer is yes, and we point to the only source that could unite them, which is consciousness. The universal model for any experience needs three parts, commonly called the observer, the observed, and the process of observation. “Newton saw an apple” fits this model, as does “the collapse of the wave function produces a particle.”  In the first case, the observer is named — Newton. In the second, the observer is implied. A great many physicists would balk, however, claiming that the collapse of the wave function doesn’t need an observer. It can happen even with automated experiments that carry out observations of the quantum system. It’s an objective event that occurs trillions of times throughout the cosmos, like countless other events (colliding hydrogen atoms, exploding stars, protons getting sucked into black holes) that came along before observers ever existed.

But this argument, which seems so common-sensical, is fallacious.  The principle of complementarity tells us that “in here” and “out there” aren’t just compatible; they are necessary to each other, intertwined aspects of the whole. You can’t have one without the other.  Grasping this fact is hard. Classical Western science, from the ancient Greeks through Newton and beyond, was based on atoms, molecules, and other physical “stuff” that exists on its own.  But just as there cannot be particles without waves; “out there” needs consciousness, “in here.” This is a participatory universe, and leaving the participant out cannot be valid. In a fundamental sense, the universe is human, because we aren’t just isolated observers like kids pressing their noses to the window of a bakery shop. The three-part model needs all three parts: observer, observed, and process of observation.

Many thinkers have tried to wriggle out of this apparent trap, but without success.  Our position is that their denial serves only to keep the human mind encaged, creating further and further problems for our collective and individual selves. We entitled this series of posts “Can Reality Set Us Free?” to underscore that by its very nature, the human mind is not limited, not even by its own short-sighted concepts. Boundaries and edges, the things that separate one thing from another, are always conceptual, manmade.  Where does your body stop?  From the everyday level of scale, your boundary is your skin.  From the atomic level of scale you and the planet are linked — every atom in your body comes from water, earth, and air taken in from the planet.  From this perspective, human beings don’t liver on the planet, we are the planet. Reality itself is a seamless flowing process where all phenomena are linked.  There are no actual boundaries.

Likewise, what we call an event constitutes another manmade boundary. The universe is constantly bubbling at the quantum level. Where we live, this bubbling looks linear as event A leads to event B, what we call A causes B. However, at finer levels of bubbling, time emerges, which means that below that level, getting very near the source, the bubbles aren’t occurring in the realm of time.

But the most liberating boundary that anyone can break free of is the one that encircles the mind, like a fence around a corral, so that there is “my” mind and “your” mind (like two different horses inside the corral), and using a bigger fence, the “human” mind, which is so self-enclosed that outside the corral there is “no” mind.   Several of the quantum pioneers, such as Planck and Schrödinger, had enough clarity to see that this boundary, too, is manmade.  There is only one consciousness, in fact, and it must be basic to creation.

Reality, then, is boundless, immeasurable, and conscious. It cannot be otherwise if the three-part model and complementarity are correct, which has been demonstrated over and over.  This is more than finicky wrangling among philosophers. The tracks of consciousness are apparent throughout creation, and what is more, when they appear, these tracks link up in analogous ways. It’s our position that the self-organizing nature of the universe is the most fundamental manifestation of consciousness (for more on these themes, see video by co-author Neil Theise.

In biology, it is undeniable that living things organize themselves, using DNA as the basic template. Adult horses create baby horses; horse livers create new liver cells; each cell sustains the process of eating, breathing, excreting, dividing, and so on. This self-organization depends on interacting with the environment using feedback loops that constantly promote survival. Being adaptable to their surroundings, horses can survive high in Montana or below sea level in Death Valley.  A horse can run or stand still. It can be pregnant or not. These are massive changes of state, but the horse’s body adapts, all the way from the cellular to the molecular level. If a condition arises that makes adaptation impossible, such as a total absence of drinking water, the animal dies. It is quite astonishing how self-organization and feedback loops maintain balance at every level from biomolecules up through each cell, tissue, and organ to create the entire body.

The crucial factor here is allowing for order while keeping randomness in check. At every level of Nature there is always a limited degree of randomness when an orderly structure, from the atom to a full-gown Arabian stallion, interacts with its surroundings.  Too much and there is no self-organization, just disorder.  Too little, and the self-organization can’t change pattern to adapt when the environment changes.  In other words, if a horse had only a fixed slow heartbeat, it couldn’t run, and if its heart raced uncontrollably, it would drop dead.  But in a defined zone of “quenched disorder,” creative adaptations can take place, bubbling into existence and disappearing if adaptation is not required.

If we scrutinize a horse at various levels, we see atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and finally the complete creature. But so far as Nature is concerned, there is only endless adaptation as one level retains its own integrity while meshing into the next level.  Complementarity in biology is thus the relationship between each of these levels. Choosing one perspective excludes all others at the time of observation. Choose to look at the body at the everyday level, and you can’t see the cells.  Go down to the molecular level, and cells vanish from view.  But it is the sum of all these levels that are your body.

This dynamic stream of cooperation is the modern equivalent of the religious notion of the Great Chain of Being.  That notion held that God seamlessly united every level of creation. In non-religious terms, we say that complex systems have organized themselves and then merge into even greater degrees of complexity. The fact that increasingly denser amounts of information can be so elegantly ordered from complex molecules to the human brain implies a mind that pervades the universe. It exists as never-ending feedback loops that provide balance, growth, and adaptability.

With this scheme in mind, it is possible to arrive at a meaningful universe.  The attributes that we call human, actually pervade creation. Besides self-organization, there is evolution and unexpected creative leaps.  We possess them because we are of the universe, not because we are particularly special and separate within the universe.

Our viewpoint isn’t likely to be persuasive to scientists who restrict themselves to reductionism, which by its nature examines only isolated segments of complex systems. But it’s one thing to study the function of the kidney or lung and quite another to claim that the rest of the body doesn’t count.  The part cannot make a greater claim to reality than the whole. We live in fortunate times. The separate researches of countless scientists have arrived at such a sophisticated level that the interaction of complex systems has given rise to theories of complexity, and on the horizon there looms a General Theory of Complexity.  We don’t know if that’s the name such a theory will take. What we do know is that the desire to know the whole of reality isn’t just a human quirk or poetic fancy.  That there is only one reality is undeniable. We can choose to remain selective, approaching reality as boxes within boxes. Or we can set ourselves free by throwing out boxes, boundaries, and limitations of all sorts.

As the uniting factor that sets us free, “consciousness” is a term that is repugnant to many scientists — mostly from an older generation — and mysterious to all.  But that doesn’t excuse blindness and neglect.  Reality keeps doing its thing, totally conscious of us while we keep evolving to become more conscious of it.  That’s been the story for many centuries.  Evolution isn’t going to stop; our hope is that it can be sped up, for the good of all.


Jean Houston on Spiritual Awakening

The Spiritual Quest – from Jean Houston (Admin)

December 9th, 2011

If I am to know God directly, I must become completely God, and God I, so that this God and this I become one I.
–Meister Eckhart

Wandering the Earth as I do, I eventually run into everybody. And almost everybody I meet seems to be on a spiritual quest, or if not, they have a growing hunger for it. The hound of heaven woofs at their heels urging them to wake up to their spiritual possibilities.
The thing about everybody is that they try everything. For sheer creativity and inventiveness, nothing beats spiritual adventuring.
People meditate or fast or pray in search of Divine connection. They make outlandish promises–giving up sex, calories, comfort. They go mad or go manic, become zealots, hush their minds into quiescence and empty themselves of thought hoping to tempt God to fill the void.
They walk on burning coals, sit in the snow, count their breaths, twirl into ecstasy, make pilgrimages to places where God or His/Her local incarnations are reputed to have placed their feet. They try out religions as different as possible from the ones in which they were raised, go on spiritual shopping sprees, twist their bodies into uncomfortable positions, change their names.
Mostly, they shout at God, begging the Great One to finally show up in their lives.
I’m not criticizing these practices; I’ve tried them all. And don’t laugh–so have you, in other ways, perhaps.
There are many signs that point to your being on a spiritual quest, even if you have not named it as such:
Do you wonder every time you pass a book counter if truth is to be found on its shelves today?
How many books have you bought this year that have “soul” in the title?
Are you always heading off to a seminar or a church retreat?
Is your house filled with angel images–cards, statues, books, candles?
Do you have an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a medicine cabinet full of supplements?
When you get the flu, do you take vitamins and echinecea instead of standard brand antibiotics?
Do you frequent health food stores?
Have you thought about trying to be a vegetarian?
Have you quit the softball league and signed up for a class in yoga or Tai Chi?
Are you surfing the Internet?
Do you find yourself hiding what you’re reading when your relatives enter the room, even though it’s not the least bit sexy?
Have you divorced a spouse because he or she just wasn’t on the same wave length?
Do your kids think you are weird?
Do your CD’s thrum with chants and drums and Celtic harps?
Are you a fan of TV shows about mythic heroes, outer space, immortals, parapsychology?
Are you sometimes unaccountably surprised by joy?
Are you reading this book?
If you have answered “yes” to any of the above, chances are you’re hooked! As well you might be, for the complexity of the present time seems to demand a deepening of our nature if we are going to survive. Deepening requires exploration. And for all its byways, exploration leads ultimately to the spiritual source of our existence.
Not since the days of Plato and Buddha and Confucius, some 2500 years ago, has their been such an uprising of spiritual yearning. But instead of being a Mediterranean and Asian phenomenon, as it was then, the explosion of spirituality is now happening worldwide.


Herman Wouk on Science & Religion

Herman Wouk

Author, ‘The Winds of War’ and ‘War and Remembrance’

The Language God Talks: The Back Story

Henrik Ibsen once wrote of the “life-lie” of authors, the resolve to create some day an enduring masterwork, the Big One that never gets written. For decades I harbored a title, A Child’s Garden of God, for a book telling of my religious faith in a frame of modern science, not necessarily a Big One, but a work I felt born to give the world. Not being a scientist at all, I was a fool to dream of accomplishing this, but novelists are fools whose dreams every now and then take form, see the light, and last.

My notes on A Child’s Garden of God go back to the 1960s. As they piled up I would comfort myself by recalling what Einstein said when asked how he worked: “How do I work? Igrope.” If that was really true, I thought, there might yet be a shred of hope for an aging storyteller getting nowhere, year by accelerating year, with his dream of writing A Child’s Garden of God. At last I decided either to do something about it, or give it up as my life-lie. I first intruded on Professor I. Bernard Cohen of Harvard, who taught the History of Science for 60 years, and told him, in an ad lib farrago lasting perhaps 20 minutes, what I had in mind. “Wow, big,” he commented. “I don’t agree, of course, I think it’s all stochastic, but I’d like to see how you do it.” Years later, still haunted byGarden, I intruded on the famed theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson at Princeton, and harangued him about the project. He heard me out and soberly nodded, saying, “It can work.”

More years passed, more notes piled up. At last I met the man who got me to start writing the book — do or die — Maarten Schmidt of Caltech, who discovered the quasars. At a lunch with him and another Caltech astronomer I knew well, Jewish and utterly secular, I poured out the still-unwritten Garden. My Jewish friend appeared indulgently amused by the idea. Maarten Schmidt listened with an intense far-off look. When I fell silent he said, “It can be done, but it is very, very hard.”

Those words became my mantra. I set out to write something brief, truthful, and readable on this gravest of themes. It took me four years and 40,000 words, based on notes running to some 30 file folders. The book starts with three chapters on science, followed by five on my faith. The science took most of the time, as I battled my ignorance all the way, making spectacular detours and blind alleys. One was a “thought experiment” in which Edwin Hubble himself appeared in my workshop and conducted me, a little like Virgil in Dante’s Inferno, outward into space among the stars, horizon by receding horizon, to the misty margins of the universe. I thought this was pretty good stuff. My almost infallible wife read a draft of this first part. “Well, it’s all right,” she said, “but you’d better get rid of that spook.” Half a year shot.

Two epigraphs frame The Language God Talks. In one Richard Feynman declares that in the view of religion, God created the universe so as to watch us struggle for good and evil, and “the stage is too big for the drama.” In the second the Israeli author S. Y. Agnon cautions, “Remember, Herman Wouk, we are storytellers. Stories, pictures, people! No thoughts!” So it is that I devote three chapters to Feynman’s Stage, five to his Drama, and try to do it all with Agnon’s stories, pictures, and people. If a thought or two drifted in, I couldn’t help it. The task totally engaged me. I never tired, never once thought of giving it up. The masses of discarded pages are in my archives, there to remain as silent evidence that it was very, very hard. With some trepidation I sent the finished manuscript to Freeman Dyson and Maartin Schmidt, among others. I. Bernard Cohen had long since left the Stage. For Dyson, whose critique was bruising and bracing, the book had worked in its fashion. Schmidt’s response started with two words in boldface: “You succeeded.” I will remember those words while I last.

But what of A Child’s Garden of God, the title I cherished for so long? Well, when my almost infallible wife read the second part, she said, “Fine, but I don’t like your title. The book is about science and religion, and the title should say so.” I bethought me of my first meeting with Feynman, when he asked me if I knew calculus, and I admitted I didn’t. “You’d better learn it,” he said. “It’s the language God talks.” This casual remark by a towering scientist, an aggressively secular Jew, strikes the modern note with a resounding agnostic clang. The Language God Talks acknowledges my lack and offers something of what I have learned of His other language, which I know pretty well: the Bible.

Herman Wouk’s new book, The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion, was published in April 2010 by Little, Brown & Company.

Ram Dass on Saying Grace

Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is, Part 3


What I mean by the word consecration is bringing into consciousness the nature of the act in a cosmic plan. For example, in the old days people would say grace. Grace was a thing you waited for before you ate the turkey.

Norman Rockwell characterizes the kid reaching while everybody’s head’s bowed. It’s that time, “Let’s say grace.” “Grace.” Now, when I bless food, the statement I say, when I say grace, is an old Sanskrit one. It means “This offering of this little ritual I’m performing, this is part of it all, part of Brahma, part of that which is eternally all. He who is making the offering means, that which is being offered is part of it all. The hunger to which you are feeding . . . the fire which you are feeding, that’s all part of it all. Whoever you are offering it to is part of it all, too. He who realizes that all of it is interrelated, all of it is one, becomes one with it all.”

There is a very lovely short story by J. D. Salinger calledTeddy, in which Teddy is like an old lama who has taken a reincarnation in a kind of middle class western family by some quirk of cosmic design. He is about ten years old and on a ship with his sister and his mother and father.

He’s out on deck and he is meeting this man who has begun to see that this little boy isn’t quite like a little boy, and he says to him, “When did you first realize that you … how it was?” And Teddy says, “Well, I was 6 years old. I was in the kitchen and I was watching my little sister in her high-chair drink milk. I suddenly saw, that it was sort of like God pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.” Well, that’s exactly the same thing as that Sanskrit mantra.


Holiday Thoughts fr/Neale Donald Walsch

The Reunion of God & Humanity

Neale Donald Walsch
a message from Neale Donald Walsch

The transformation of Humanity’s downfall into Humanity’s upliftment may be achieved through a simple reversal of thinking. It is a shift from Separation Theology to Unity Spirituality. It is the reunion of God and Humanity.

It is easier to experience Reunion with God on an individual basis than it is collectively. That is because it takes a great deal more energy to alter Collective Consciousness than it does to alter Individual Consciousness.

Yet Collective Consciousness can be altered when the alteration of Individual Consciousness reaches critical mass. When sufficient individual energies are lifted, the entire mass is elevated to a new level.

The work of Conscious Evolution, therefore, is the work of changing consciousness at the individual level. This follows directly from the Third Illusion of Humans, given to us inCommunion with God, which is that Disunity Exists. When we attempt to change others we are implicitly affirming this illusion, which is why such efforts are invariably wasted. We can only change the One of Us That Is, and the aspect of the One of Us That Is which is most present to us is our experience of self. Therefore, when we change ourselves we change the world. That is why every effort to do so is critical.

Every individual undertaking, every individual thought, word, or action which leads to the transformation of the Self and to the lifting of any other being, is of extraordinary importance. It is not necessary to move mountains to move mountains. It is necessary only to move pebbles.

We must become People of the Pebbles. We must do our work on a person-to-person basis. Then we shall move mountains. Then the mightiest obstacles shall crumble, and the way shall be made clear.

So let us undertake to deeply understand on an individual level (and then to demonstrate on an individual level) how and why it is possible for The Divine to want nothing for Itself, and to seek only to distribute.

We begin by coming to clarity on who and what The Divine is.

The Divine is Everything. All that is seen and all that is unseen is The Divine. All that is known and unknown is The Divine. All that is experienced and unexperienced is The Divine. All that is here and all that is not here, all that is now and all that is forever, all that is limited and all that is unlimited is The Divine. All that is comprehensible and all that is incomprehensible is The Divine.

There is nothing that Is that is not The Divine.

Divinity is everywhere at once, and thus, it is nowhere in particular. Divinity is NOWHERE. Divinity is NOW/HERE.

All of this has been given to us in Conversations with God. None of this is new. It has been given to us a thousand times before Conversations with God. It has been given to us a thousand times since. Indeed, in every moment of every day, through a thousand individual manifestations of Itself, is Divinity revealing Itself. Yet we do not see. Or we see, but do not believe.

We do not believe the evidence of our own eyes. We do not hear the truth in the sounds of silence.

Yet, for those who have ears to hear, listen. And Watch. Observe. Observe the Self. Watch over your Self.

Look at what you are doing on this day. Are you spending most of your energy gathering, or giving? And if you are giving, are you giving in order to gather? Do you do the work you do in order for it to pay off for you? And what, exactly, is the payoff? What are you gathering?

Hugs and Love,

P.S. The thoughts above come from The Holy Experience, a full-length book that you may download for free at Simply click on the Free Resources icon.


Intuition and Belief in God

Intuitive Thinking May Influence Belief in God

Released: 9/20/2011 12:15 PM EDT
Source: American Psychological Association (APA)


Harvard University Researchers Explore Link between Thinking Styles and Faith

Newswise — WASHINGTON — Intuition may lead people toward a belief in the divine and help explain why some people have more faith in God than others, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

In a series of studies, researchers at Harvard University found that people with a more intuitive thinking style tend to have stronger beliefs in God than those with a more reflective style. Intuitive thinking means going with one’s first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes. Reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities, thus allowing for counterintuitive decisions.

“We wanted to explain variations in belief in God in terms of more basic cognitive processes,” researcher Amitai Shenhav said. “Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don’t have obvious human causes. This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual’s beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts.”

The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The study from the Harvard University Psychology Department was conducted by Shenhav, a doctoral student; post-doctoral fellow David Rand, PhD; and associate professor Joshua Greene, PhD.

In the first part of the study, 882 U.S. adults, with a mean age of 33 and consisting of 64 percent women, completed online surveys about their belief in God before taking a cognitive reflection test. The test had three math problems with incorrect answers that seemed intuitive. For example, one question stated: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” The automatic or intuitive answer is 10 cents, but the correct answer is 5 cents. Participants who had more incorrect answers showed a greater reliance on intuition than reflection in their thinking style.

Participants who gave intuitive answers to all three problems were 1 ½ times as likely to report they were convinced of God’s existence as those who answered all of the questions correctly. That pattern was found regardless of other demographic factors, such as the participants’ political beliefs, education or income. “How people think — or fail to think — about the prices of bats and balls is reflected in their thinking, and ultimately their convictions, about the metaphysical order of the universe,” the journal article stated.

Participants with an intuitive thinking style also were more likely to have become more confident believers in God over their lifetimes, regardless of whether they had a religious upbringing. Individuals with a reflective style tended to become less confident in their belief in God. The study also found that this pronounced link between differing thinking styles and levels of faith could not be explained by differences in the participants’ thinking ability or IQ. “Basic ways of thinking about problem solving in your everyday life are predictive of how much you believe in God,” Rand said. “It’s not that one way is better than the other. Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God.”

In another study, with 373 participants, the researchers found they could temporarily influence levels of faith by instructing participants to write a paragraph describing a personal experience where either intuitive or reflective thinking led to a good result. One group was told to describe a time in their lives when intuition or first instinct led to a good outcome, while a second group was instructed to write about an experience where a good outcome resulted from reflecting and carefully reasoning through a problem. When they were surveyed about their beliefs after the writing exercise, participants who wrote about a successful intuitive experience were more likely to report they were convinced of God’s existence than those who wrote about a successful reflective experience.

These studies suggest a causal link between intuitive thinking and a belief in God, but the researchers acknowledged the opposite may also be true, that a belief in God may lead to intuitive thinking. Future research will help explore how cognitive styles are influenced by genes and environmental factors, such as upbringing and education, Rand said.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.


Article: “Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God,” Amitai Shenhav; David G. Rand, PhD; and Joshua D. Greene, PhD; Harvard University; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; online.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at




Science & Spirituality

My Take: Science and spirituality should be friends

Editor’s Note: Deepak Chopra is founder of the Chopra Foundation and a senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. He has authored over 60 books, including The Soul of Leadership, which The Wall Street Journal called one of five best business books about careers.

By Deepak Chopra, Special to CNN

For most people, science deserves its reputation for being opposed to religion.

I’m not thinking of the rather noisy campaign by a handful of die-hard atheists to demote and ridicule faith.

I’m thinking instead of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution has proved victorious over the Book of Genesis and its story of God creating the universe in seven days. Since then, God has been found wanting when measured against facts and data. With no data to support the existence of God, there is also no reason for religion and science to close the gap between them.

Yet the gap has indeed been closing.

Religion and spirituality didn’t go away just because organized religion has been losing its hold, as suggested by showing decades of  declining church attendance in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Despite the noisy atheists, two trends in spirituality and science have started to converge. One is the trend to seek God outside the church. This has given rise to a kind of spirituality based on personal experience, with an openness to accept Eastern traditions like meditation and yoga as legitimate ways to expand one’s consciousness.

If God is to be found anywhere, it is inside the consciousness of each person. Even in the Christian West we have the assurance of Jesus that the kingdom of heaven is within, while the Old Testament declares, “Be still and know that I am God.”

The other trend is a growing interest by scientists in questions about consciousness