by Gregg Braden

The book

Pages 227-230

Nation Against Nation
At the birth of the twenty-first century, the conditions appear to be in place for a great polarization of world powers, bringing the threat of a global war well within the realm of possibility. Countries that have previously been viewed as less of a factor in global strategies are taking on new and unexpected roles in the unfolding drama that is reshaping our world.

The last two years of the twentieth century, for example, saw a number of new countries joining the exclusive ranks of those possessing nuclear arms. Of particular note were the surprise weapons tests of India and Pakistan. In spite of adamant pleas for restraint by the United Nations Security Council, Russia, and the United States, the two technological rivals have continued to test their weapons in the interest of national security.

Though many scoff at the possibility of a global war, believing that the horrors of World War II are too fresh in our memory to allow such an event again, it is important to remain vigilant and discerning, and to recognize the significance of global events that, at first, may seem far away, with little relevance to home.

The late-century crisis in Kosovo offered an example of just such events. Though they appeared to casual observers to have "come out of nowhere," the conflicts leading to the Kosovo crisis actually stem from centuries-old tensions in a portion of Eastern Europe that many analysts refer to as the "Balkan powder keg." Following the ethnic cleansing and wartime atrocities witnessed by the world in Bosnia less than a decade before, the nations of the West were unwilling to allow a similar tragedy to continue in Kosovo. The intent, duration, and form of military intervention, however, were factors that divided even the allied forces attempting to intervene. The struggle for power in Eastern Europe offers a clear study on how regional strife may unexpectedly polarize the great powers of the world into precarious positions on opposite sides of the negotiating table.

The Balkan area is only one example of a political situation with vast military implications. As the United Nations monitors the events unfolding in Europe, it also continues to enforce an embargo and military restrictions on Iraq. Threatened by the buildup of chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has been viewed as yet another powder keg, this one in the Middle East. Even that country’s Arab neighbors, those traditionally considered to be its allies, disapprove of Iraq’s new weapons capabilities and the destabilization of what was already a delicate balance of power in a volatile part of the world.

During a time that many have considered relatively peaceful on a global scale, the last twenty years have, in fact, been a time of tragedy and tremendous suffering on a localized basis. The death toll resulting from separatist movements and religious and civil wars is estimated to be over four and a half million lives, a number representing the entire population of the state of Louisiana, or the entire country of Israel. When the conflict in Tibet is factored in, the loss of human life escalates by at least another million, and possibly more.

Locations of global tensions at the birth of the third millennium

Location  -  Description of conflict  -  Lives lost *

Bosnia/Herzegovina-Serb opposition to Independence - 200,000+
Kosovo -Kosovars struggle for Independence - 2,000+
Northern Ireland -Sectarian violence - 3,200
Haiti -Civil war leading to 1991 coup - ?
Chechnya -Muslims battle Russians/Independence- 40,000
Sri Lanka -Tamils battling Sinhalese since 1983- 56,000
Rwanda -Hutu majority battling Tutsi minority-800,000+
Republic of Congo -Civil war 10,000+
Somalia -Civil war 300,000+
Sudan -Muslims battling Christians - 1.9 mil
Angola -Civil war - 1.0 mil
Sierra Leone -Civil war - 3,000
Liberia -Civil war - 250,000
Algeria -Civil war - 65-80,000
Turkey -Civil war - 37,000
Tibet -Conflict between China/Tibet - 1.0 mil

*statistics as of first quarter 1999

These statistics certainly describe something other than a peaceful world! Until the late 1990s, however, such conflicts appeared to be localized and, though tragic, less relevant in the daily lives of the people of the Western world. Events late in 1998 and in 1999, however, changed our worldview, with mass media bringing the horror of regional conflicts and isolated wars into our homes and classrooms in a way never seen before. Additionally, situations such as the breakdown of peace negotiations between Israel and the state of Palestine, continued tensions in Northern Ireland, and a sudden leap in China’s nuclear technology contribute to what many scholars believe are the precursors of well-known prophecies tumbling into place, the global positioning of a third great war. The sheer number of conflicts presents a threat to global stability that becomes a greater possibility as tensions increase.

Page 233/234-236

Mass Prayer and Mustard Seeds
Recent studies into the effects of prayer offer new credibility to ancient propositions suggesting that we may "do something" about the horrors of our world, both present and future. These studies add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that focused prayers, especially those offered on a large scale, have a predictable and measurable effect on the quality of life during the time of the prayer. Documenting statistical changes in daily life, such as specific crimes and traffic accidents, while prayers are offered, a series of studies show a direct relationship between the prayers and the statistics. During the time of the prayers, the statistics drop. When the prayers end, the statistics return to previous levels.

Scientists suspect that the relationship between mass prayer and the activity of individuals in communities is due to a phenomenon known as the field effect of consciousness. Much like Joseph’s description of the sage, where the experience of one plant affects the entire field, studies of specific population samples appear to bear out this relationship. Two scientists considered to have played a key role in the development of modern psychology clearly referenced such effects in studies offered nearly one hundred years ago.

In a paper originally published in 1898, for example, William James suggested that,

"there exists a continuum of consciousness uniting individual minds that could be directly experienced if the psychophysical threshold of perception were sufficiently lowered through refinement in the functioning nervous system."

James’ paper was a modern reference to a zone of consciousness, a level of universal mind, that touches each and every life. By using specific qualities of thought, feeling, and emotion, we may tap into this universal mind and share in its benefits. The purpose of many prayers and meditative techniques is to achieve precisely such a condition.

In the words of their day, ancient teachings suggest a similar field of consciousness, accessed by similar methods. The Vedic traditions, for example, speak of a unified field of "pure consciousness" that permeates all of creation. In such traditions, our experience of thought and perception are viewed as disturbances, interruptions in an otherwise motionless field. At the same time, it is through our path of mastering perception and thought that we may find the unifying consciousness as individuals or as a group.

This is where the application of such studies becomes crucial in global efforts to bring peace to our world. If we view conflict, aggression, and war in our outer world as indications of stress in our collective consciousness, then relieving collective stress should relieve global tensions. In the words of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) programs,

"All occurrences of violence, negativity, conflict crisis, or problems in any society are just the expression of growth of stress in collective consciousness. When the level of stress becomes sufficiently great, it bursts out into large-scale violence, war, and civil uprising necessitating military action."

The beauty of the field effect is that when stress is relieved within a group, the effects are registered beyond the immediate group, into an even larger area. This is the thinking that led to studies of mass meditation and prayer during the Israeli-Lebanese War in the early 1980s.

In September 1983, studies were conducted in Jerusalem to explore the relationship between prayer, meditation, and violence. Applying new technologies to test an ancient theory, individuals trained in the techniques of TM, considered to be a mode of prayer by prayer researchers, were placed in strategic locations within Jerusalem during the conflict with Lebanon. The purpose of the study was to determine if a reduction of stress in the localized populations would, in fact, be reflected as less violence and aggression on a regional basis.

The 1983 studies followed earlier experiments indicating that as little as one percent of a mass population practicing unified forms of peaceful prayer and meditation was enough to reduce crime rates, accidents, and suicides. Studies conducted in 1972 showed that twenty-four U.S. cities, each with populations over ten thousand, experienced a statistically measurable reduction in crime when as few as one percent (one hundred people for every ten thousand) of the population participated in some form of meditative practice. This became known as the "Maharishi Effect."

To determine how certain modes of meditation and prayer would influence the general population in the Israeli study, the quality of life was defined by a statistical index based on the number of fires, traffic accidents, occurrences of crime, fluctuations in the stock market, and the general mood of the nation. At the peak of the experiments, 234 participants meditated and prayed in the study, a fraction of the population of greater Jerusalem. The results of the study showed a direct relationship between the number of participants and the decrease of activity in the various categories of quality of life. When the numbers of participants were high, the index of the various categories declined. Crime, fires and accidents increased as the number of people praying was reduced.

These studies demonstrated a high correlation between the number of people in prayer and the quality of life in the immediate vicinity. Similar studies conducted in major population centers of the United States, India, and the Philippines found similar correlations. Data from these cities between 1984 and 1985 verified decreases in crime rates that "could not have been due to trends or cycles of crime, or to changes in police policies or procedures."

Pages 238-239

The Harvest Is Great, Though the Laborers Are Few
Although these statistics may represent an optimum number to bring about change, the studies in Jerusalem and the other large population centers suggest that the numbers to initiate such change may be even smaller! The studies indicate that the first effects of the mass meditation/prayer became noticeable when the number of people participating in the prayers was greater than the square root of one percent of the population. In a city of one million people, for example, this value represents only one hundred individuals!

Applying the localized findings of the test cities to a larger population on a global scale offers powerful and perhaps unexpected results. Representing only a fraction of even the ancient estimates, the square root of one percent of earth’s population is just under eight thousand people! With the advent of the World Wide Web and computerized communications, organizing a time of coordinated meditation/prayer supported by a minimum of eight thousand people is certainly feasible. Clearly, this number represents only the minimum required for the effect to begin - a threshold of sorts. The greater the number participating, the greater the acceleration of the effect. Such numbers remind us of ancient admonitions suggesting that a very few people may make a difference to an entire world.

Perhaps this is the "mustard seed" of the parable that Jesus used to demonstrate the amount of faith required of his followers. Of such faith, we are reminded in the lost Gospel Q that "the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few." With the evidence of such potential, what are the implications of directing such a collective power toward the great challenges of our time?