Willis Harman was the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, an organization focusing on the further reaches of human potential, founded by Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Harman's books include "Global Mind Change," "Higher Creativity," and "Creative Work."
DiCarlo: You've been president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences since the mid-70s. Could briefly talk about the origins of this organization and its mission?
Harman: Yes. While Edgar Mitchell, one of the Apollo astronauts was on his way back from walking on the moon, he had a kind of spiritual experience. It struck him that traditional science didn't allow for the kind of non-ordinary experience, nor with what they meant to the people who had them. In general, science didn't handle the topic of consciousness very well. So he set up this non-profit organization called The Institute of Noetic Sciences to work in this neglected area of science by focusing upon consciousness related phenomena and experiences.
As the years have gone on, the Institute has chosen two main tasks. One is leading-edge research in consciousness related fields, such as spontaneous remission of cancer, the mind, meditation, healing in general and research on creative altruism. Secondly, and with the aid of a couple dozen scientists and philosophers, the Institute has studied the question, "why does science have the particular characteristics that it does?" and "what sort of changes would have to take place in order for science to be better suited to handle these areas of consciousness?". In scientific jargon, we're seeking a different epistomology for science. Put another way, we are wanting to answer the question, "how do we know what we think we know scientifically?"
DiCarlo: Let's talk about healing since that's an area of interest for the Institute. What's the bottom line message that scientific researchers are telling you about the relationship between the body and the mind?
Harman: The evidence suggests that the mind plays a much greater role than has been recognized by the scientific and medical community. This is the heart of the issue regarding complimentary medicine and alternative forms of health care. Most, if not all of them, hinge upon the powers of the mind. This isn't necessarily obvious in an area like homeopathy or acupumcture, but there's a suspicion at least, that the powers of these types of approaches depend upon the body being much different than the mechanistic view that has prevailed in the medical community thus far.
DiCarlo: Energy medicine seems to be an emerging area of Institute interest that seems to offer exciting possibilities in the treatment and prevention of physical and even psychological illness. What is it?
Harman: Energy medicine is a term that is used by some people who believe that there are fields around the human body that are influential in the healing process and in other ways. They propose that through the study of these fields, much knowledge can be obtained to help treat and diagnose people who have the potential of developing an illness. Other people use the same term, but really leave open the question as to whether these fields and influences are really physically measureable or are whether they exist in some other domain, some other dimension so to speak.
I think there is some advantage in leaving the term open-ended at the time being. At the very least, the energy field involves the exploration of faint electrical magnetic fields around the body and their relationship to health. It may have to do with much more than that.