I am honored to interview Dr Larry Dossey about his new book, One Mind.
Larry is is one of the fathers of the holistic medicine movement and a mentor of mine.
Dr Lipman: What is your book about?
Larry Dossey MD: It’s about the nature of our mind. I show that our mind is not confined to our brain or body, as we’ve been taught, but it extends infinitely outside them. Our minds have no boundaries or limits, so they merge with all other minds to form what I call the One Mind. This greater mind appears to be boundless in time, so it’s immortal and eternal. It’s also a source of great wisdom and creativity. This picture is based on many lines of evidence as well as a variety of people’s experiences, which I explore at length in the book.
So, basically the book is about the size of our mind — whether it is small, medium, large, extra large, or even infinite in extent.
It’s about how our individual minds are not just individual, but connected in the One Mind.
It’s about our relationships — how our minds are connected with one another and with all of life on earth, and why this is crucial for our survival.
I’m saying that you, your spouse, children, siblings, your lover, your ancestors, your descendants, even your mother-in-law and your dog and cat, are all members of a larger consciousness: the One Mind.
During the 20th century, we took the mind apart. I’m putting it back together.
We’ve been taught that our mind is fragmented, that it is divided into the preconscious, the sub-conscious, the unconscious, and the collective unconscious. This book looks through the other end of the telescope. It shows that our individual minds are part of a greater whole, a dimension of consciousness that encompasses all minds — past, present, and future, human as well as non-human.
Dr Lipman: Why is this important?
Larry Dossey MD: This realization is our best hope for our survival on earth. Only by realizing, at the deepest emotional level, our connections with one another and the earth itself can we summon the courage necessary to make the tough choices that are required in order to survive. So this book is about staying alive — saving the earth and our own skins.
Alice Walker said, “Anything we love can be saved” — including, I suggest, the earth itself, ourselves, our children, and generations yet unborn. The One Mind facilitates our connectedness and oneness with all else, therefore our love for all else. The One mind helps us re-sacralize the world.
How do we know the One Mind exists? Hints of our One Mind are all around us. This is not mere philosophy. From time to time, we all experience events that make sense only if we are connected with one another mentally.
The love of a mother for her baby is a study in oneness, in which boundaries and isolation are overcome. Anyone who has been deeply in love experiences the same thing: a fusion of two people in which the concept of “the other” is set aside. The recent explosion of interest in genealogy, the study of one’s family origins, can be seen as attempt to restore connections and a yearning for oneness.
Moreover, people often exchange thoughts, emotions, and even physical sensations at a distance. This is particularly common between people who are emotionally close. The classic example is a mother who “just knows” that her child is in danger, even though far away — as if the mother and child have a common mind, a common consciousness.
Another example: People often acquire knowledge of things in ways that that are inexplicable. For example, the great inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I have never created anything. I get impressions from the Universe at large and work them out.”
Another example: Savants, who are often profoundly mentally handicapped, cannot read, and are incapable of learning, demonstrate detailed information they could not possibly have learned. Where does it come from? I suggest they connect with a reservoir of wisdom that is the One Mind.
People frequently have detailed dreams of future events, which I devoted an entire book to, The Power of Premonitions.
Near-death experiences are a portal to the One Mind. Ten million Americans have experienced an NDE. The hallmark of the experience is a sense of oneness with all there is — an awareness that is so profound that their life is transformed after recovery.
I discuss a huge variety of experiences of this kind. There simply is no way happenings such as these can be explained by our conventional view that our mind is confined to our brain, that we acquire information only through the physical senses, and that our minds are separate from all other minds. Some larger view of consciousness is required — what I’m calling the One Mind.
The evidence shows that our mind is not limited to our brain and body. And if it is not limited or confined to specific places in space, then our individual minds must in some way come together — again, I suggest, in the One Mind.
The benefits are enormous. If our individual minds don’t have boundaries and mix with all other minds, this means we have access to all possible wisdom and creativity. And since the One Mind is infinite not just in space but also in time, it must be, in some sense, immortal. So the One-Mind view provides us indirect assurance of the survival of bodily death.
Dr Lipman: Where did you come up with this idea?
Larry Dossey MD: The concept of the One Mind has been around for a long time. We can trace it back 3,000 years to the philosophy of ancient India, where it was called the Akashic Records. It is echoed in the Hindu concept of the union of the human and the divine: tat tvam asi of “thou art that.”
Many traditions honor the experience of the One Mind. It has been variously called satori in Zen, samadhi in Yoga, fana in Sufism, and Christ consciousness in Christianity. Other terms include cosmic consciousness, illumination, awakening, enlightenment, and so on. The experience of the One Mind, however it is named, involves a direct apprehension of the universe and all in it as being One with no real dividing lines or divisions in it. Everything is connected with everything else. Partition and separation are illusions. As psychologist Lawrence LeShan wrote, “There is no separation between entities, neither by time nor by space. The whole universe is perceived as ‘a one without a second.” This experience carries with it the sense that one has apprehended ineluctable Truth. (Source: Lawrence LeShan, Landscapes of the Mind. Guilford, CT: Eirini Press; 2012: 91).
There are allusions to the idea in the New Testament. St. Paul spoke of “the peace of God that passes all understanding.” As mythologist Joseph Campbell put it, Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is within. Who is in heaven? God. This means, Campbell said, that God is within each person — infinite, boundless, immortal, one.
The American transcendentalists advocated a One-Mind concept — Emerson’s idea of the Over-soul.
The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious is a version of the One Mind.
William James, the founder of American psychology, was a proponent of a single, collective mind.
Many great scientists in a variety of fields have endorsed the idea. It has surfaced in modern physics in the writings of Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger, whose wave equations lie at the heart of quantum physics. The eminent physicist David Bohm also strongly supported the idea of a single, over-arching mind that includes all individual minds.
So the idea of the One Mind began millennia ago and persists to the present day, and it is supported by some of the outstanding figures in modern science and psychology.
Dr Lipman: You’re a physician. Does this have anything to do with your interest in the One Mind?
Larry Dossey MD: Yes, definitely. During my early career as an internist, I experienced several events that turned my views of consciousness upside down and inside out. I found these experiences unnerving.
I was a typical believer that mind and brain were essentially the same. But when I began experiencing precognitive dreams, gaining information from the future before the event happened, I began to question the dogma that says these events can’t happen. It wasn’t just me; my patients, as well as nurses and other doctors, shared similar experiences with me.
In the late 1980s, experiments began to be published in medical journals assessing the impact of healing intentions and prayers on the clinical course of patients in distant hospitals and coronary care units. Similar experiments were done non-humans and with organs and cells. These experiments strongly implied that our mind is not confined to our brain. Our intentions, thoughts, and wishes can reach out beyond the body and make a difference in “the world out there.”
Several evaluations of this field have been published, called systematic or meta-analyses. This is a way of combining the results of many studies in order to take an overall look at a particular field . Many of these analyses have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Most of them are positive, indicating that these effects are real. Still, they have not penetrated our awareness as they should.
It is vital to realize — and this is almost always ignored by skeptics — that scores of these experiments deal with effects not just in humans but in animals, plants, microbes, and even chemical reactions. Why important? Skeptics generally say that if a person responds to, say, the healing intentions of a distant individual, it is merely a placebo effect — the result of positive thinking, suggestion, or expectation. But if an animal, plant, microbes, or biochemical reactions are affected, the distant effect cannot be dismissed as a placebo even because, as far as we know, animals, plants, microbes, and chemicals don’t think positively. They don’t have placebo responses. So these non-human studies strongly suggest that the remote, distant, consciousness-mediated healing effects and similar nonlocal phenomena are real, and that we are not fooling ourselves.
These various experiments point toward the One Mind. They show that some aspect of our consciousness operates outside the human brain and body, and cannot be confined or limited, but is nonlocal or limitless. And if limitless, the mind has no boundaries and must come together with all other minds.
Other studies called “presentiment” experiments or experiments in “anticipatory awareness,” show that we can acquire information from the future, before an event even happens.
Putting this evidence together, a nonlocal picture of consciousness emerges, which means that our minds are not localized or confined to particular points in space or time. And if our minds are unbounded, they must in some dimension come together to form a single mind, a single entity: the One Mind.
Dr Lipman: This sounds pretty radical, don’t you think?
Larry Dossey MD: I used to think so, but not anymore. New ideas in science, art, music, math, education, etc. often sound radical when first proposed. This is especially true where consciousness is concerned. As one skeptical scientist said about nonlocal, unbounded consciousness, “This is the sort of thing I would not believe, even if it were true.”
Physicist Max Planck, the main founder of quantum physics, faced this resistance. He said that the older generation of scientists would die off and younger, more open-minded individuals would take their place. Planck’s view has been paraphrased as, “Science changes funeral by funeral.”
Radical change in any field is nearly always resisted.
It’s the same way in science. Many skeptics seem to think our conventional concepts of consciousness are set in stone — or the brain.
But new views of consciousness have continually arisen historically. In the twentieth century we saw a flurry of new ideas about consciousness — the unconscious, the pre-conscious, the sub-conscious, and the collective unconscious. The One Mind is a version of the collective conscious, which was glimpsed by the great psychologist Carl Jung, psychologist William James, and many others. But we have something Jung and James did not have: a great deal of empirical evidence supporting the idea.
Dr Lipman: What difference in your own life has awareness of the One Mind made?
Larry Dossey MD: Awareness of the One Mind has contributed enormously to my peace, tranquility, and joy.
You see, I’m an introvert by nature, inclined toward aloneness. Awareness of my place in the One Mind has helped me overcome my innate tendency for isolation. I feel I’ve found a more authentic place in the Universe. It’s rather like coming home and realizing that you never left. It’s a sense of belonging, of finding your natural fit in the great scheme of things.
The great human dread of death goes out the window. As a physician, this is important to me, because I believe the fear of death and annihilation has caused more suffering throughout human history than all the physical diseases combined. The One Mind reduces that fear and the suffering that goes with it. Why? The One Mind mandates immortality by way of our infinitude in space and time.
One-Mind awareness has affected the way I relate to other people. I’ve become much less competitive, more giving, more supportive, more understanding of other people’s difficulties and problems, and more interactive with others. (I still have a way to go!)
One-Mind awareness helps me see how I can make a difference. In today’s world, we can feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face. What difference can my efforts as a single individual possibly make? The One Mind increases our sense of adequacy and what is possible, because through it we have access to all wisdom and knowledge. We realize we don’t need to know and do everything individually, because we are a part of the Great Connect. We are never alone. We are an infinite team, not a lone wolf. The pressure eases. A lightness of mind and spirit arises, and perhaps a sense of humor. Now that is different!