Roger Nelson is Director of the IONS-sponsored Global Consciousness Project (GCP), an international collaboration of scientists, artists, and others interested in the extraordinary aspects of human consciousness. He coordinated research in the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory at Princeton University for more than 20 years.
Nelson’s professional training is in experimental psychology and psychophysiology, supplemented by a background in physics, statistical methods, engineering, sculpture, electronic music, and multi-media production. He is a student of “alternate psychologies” which represent a wide range of transpersonal and non-western approaches to the understanding of consciousness. He feels that an inclusive and multi-disciplinary approach combining scientific, aesthetic, and spiritual perspectives is essential if we are to come to terms with consciousness as it exists and operates in the physical world.
In 1980 Dr. Nelson moved from northern Vermont where he was professor of psychology at Johnson State College, to join the PEAR team in Princeton, New Jersey. For more than two decades he worked with this creative, interdisciplinary group developing technologies and experimental applications to study direct manifestations of consciousness and intention. The principle experiments at PEAR looked at anomalous information transfer (Remote Perception) and anomalous interactions of mind and machine using sensitive physical systems such as electronic random event generators (REGs).
Since 1993 Nelson has been a member of the Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research, working with groups on Healing Interactions and Subtle Energies. He was a participant in the formative meetings for the Office of Alternative Medicine (now NCCAM) of the NIH and contributed “Meditation and Medicine” to the published report of the NIH Mind/Body working group. He served on the Advisory Board of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and is a Councillor for the Society of Scientific Exploration and a Board member and former president of the Parapsychological Association.
During the 1990’s Nelson focused on “FieldREG” studies in which the technology used to study anomalous effects of intention in the laboratory is taken into field situations to examine the effects of various types of group consciousness. The results suggest something akin to a “consciousness field” generated by resonant or coherent interactions of groups during special moments including applications such as nonlocal healing. The implication of this research is that consciousness plays a subtle but important constructive role in the physical world.
Drawing on this background Dr. Nelson established the Global Consciousness Project in 1998, expanding the concepts of consciousness field research to global dimensions. The GCP’s researchers have created a world-spanning network of detectors to record effects of major global events on a hypothesized global consciousness. Currently there are about 40 detectors worldwide continuously registering and sending data via the internet to a server in Princeton, New Jersey.
The project’s aspirational goal is to capture the first glimmerings of a “noosphere” of intelligence for the globe, similar to that of Teilhard de Chardin’s vision of human evolution and purpose. Fifteen years of accumulated data show a persistent pattern: When we are collectively engaged by powerful events the network of REG detectors responds with a tiny correlation. The odds are about a trillion to one against the overall result being a chance outcome. Instead it is suggestive of a global consciousness field – a burgeoning though imperceptible “noosphere”. While a formal description of such a field is not yet available, it represents a viable interpretation of the GCP’s remarkable results. The experiments indicate that we are deeply interconnected though we cannot perceive it. They suggest something akin to the idea of oneness that is a fundamental tenet in virtually all cultures and religions.
Beyond the formal studies of the GCP, analyses include many explorations that tap into the direct perception of meaning through structure, symmetry, and beauty. The complementary combination of scientific and aesthetic perspectives is fundamental to Dr. Nelson’s work. It leads to an ongoing search for the story that underlies and supports rigorous research and which may be essential for its interpretation. Current scientific models and theories are only skeletal approximations of the complexities that characterize consciousness. An enrichment of scientific research through the power of creative insight and the wisdom of spiritual disciplines is ultimately required for deeper understanding.
As Dr. Nelson refers to it, we are at a critical time in history. We face the necessity to transform our civilization into one that is conscious of its potentials and responsibilities. We have the ability to choose cooperation and collaboration over dissension and strife. The result will be a flowering of culture and a reversal of trends that threaten to destroy a world we love yet which we take for granted. The GCP has a role to play by focusing an illuminating technological perspective on our deep interconnections to each other and to the earth. It is one of a thousand thought-provoking rivulets that may coalesce into streams which converge into rivers of understanding about who we really are and how we may become conscious stewards of our destiny. When these rivulets reach the ocean of truly reflective and integrated consciousness, we will manifest our highest potentials.
The Global Consciousness Project is a long term research project which maintains a world-spanning network of random sources. Its purpose is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We hypothesize that there will be structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events that engage our minds and hearts.