Bill Sweet, author of Journey into Prayer – Pioneers of Prayer in the Laboratory, and former President of Spindrift Research, a group of Christian Scientists founded by the late John and Bruce Klingbeil, has been studying the efficacy of prayer since the late 60’s. Spindrift’s experiments were some of the first formal experiments into the nature of prayer, and represent a foundation for much of the research that has been conducted since then, including recent experiments in prayer as an aid to medical treatment.
Many of the tests conducted by Spindrift focused on plant growth, and the effects that prayer had on the development of vegetation. They were, however, also pioneers in testing the effect of using prayer as a focus for intention on changing the outcome of random number generators, a test that has been used in other laboratory settings to test psi capabilities and retro-causal action at a distance phenomenon. In the following essay, Bill answers a question posed to him on a Christian Science message board, and in doing so provides an interesting look at the experiments that Spindrift Research has conducted over the years.
The Klingbeils faced severe opposition from fundamentalist factions with the Christian Science movement when they first proposed their experiements. One of the unforeseen outcomes of their experiments was a deeper understanding of the defensive mechanisms that come into play when people are faced with cause and effect scenarios that do not fit within a standard social world view. Their experiences provide an interesting look at the struggle to combine the insights of a faith tradition with those of scientific inquiry, something common to many esoteric disciplines.
Another area that bears on esoteric traditions in general, is his description of how some of the information that he has obtained came from private sources, and would have been lost had it not been collected while those sources were still alive. This is relevant to any tradition whose teachings are available in written practical and oral form. When the knowledge is not properly passed down, whether from stingy teachers or unqualified students, much is lost from generation to generation. We should always keep this in mind as we study, learn and grow within our own varied practices and traditions.
Bill Sweet, Spindrift Research, on the Efficacy of Prayer -
“Bill, could you give one example of the empirical evidence that you yourself judge very significant? And as a second question: are there conclusions based on the empirical evidence that can be used in the application of CS/prayer? From Ivo” (06/24/12)
I will try.
First of all, I’d like to quote a Bible verse that I find myself repeatedly getting a good laugh from when I read it.
“I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien.” (Hosea 8: 12 NIV)
Some of what I will write will sound “alien” from outer space. That is because through the years the attempts by Christian Scientist scientists to bring out the examples of science have largely been deep sixed.
Arthur Corey apparently wrote his book out of the desperation that certain topics that happened in Christian Science would be lost to history because they were private conversations and secret teachings by default. And he was even asked not to repeat them. Thank goodness he did. He lost his friends over it, but we have his book. It makes one wonder what other people kept their secrets and these secrets are lost for good.
The vast topics that Mrs. Eddy’s discovery covers have to make someone zero in on what appeals to him or her. It seems to become a Christian Scientist; one has to have a proclivity for healing. That is understandable.
Things of science seem not to appeal to those strictly interested in healing which is the majority of Christian Scientists. Yet, Science/science is an undeniable factor in the work that Mary Baker Eddy did. In addition, there is a modest connection with healing.
Granted, the connections of Divine Science with Christian Science and with the evolving Natural Sciences aren’t for every student of Christian Science. It’s for the scientifically inclined. The contributions to world progress are great from that interest of finding a nexus between holy thought in religion with lawful thought in science.
I bounced the question off a former president of Spindrift as to what she would suggest as a decent example of an experiment of thought and prayer. I agree with her suggestion. The bi-directional soybean experiment is the one I will illustrate.
In the list of experiments on the “Experiments” page on the Spindrift website, this bi-directional test is the second experiment listed.
It’s a complicated test that I will try and describe. Soybeans in bags were treated by prayer. People with different backgrounds in prayer provided the input, the treatments. Christian Scientists were in this volunteer group as well.
One grouping of soybeans was over-soaked. A second grouping of soybeans was under-soaked. Therefore, both groupings of soybeans were not right: they were deviated from a normal pattern of development because they either had too much or too little water.
Out of the physical area of these soybeans were identical groups of soybeans that constituted a ‘control group.’ These beans in ‘the science of beans’ did not receive any mental attention or prayer though quantum entanglement is hard to completely eliminate. Once one thinks of something, he or she is mentally tied to it too some degree. Spindrift has learned lessons about entanglement that it labels “Associational Linkage” lessons that should help those involved in spiritual healing become freer of attachments, so they can detach and give an impersonal treatment which is not always easy to do when we are thinking of the subject prayed for on an unconscious level.
In the bi-directional test, the human need or plant need is for the return to a normal range of moisture for the soybeans. Since the two groups of soybeans had opposite needs, healing would involve an up move for one group and a down move for the other group.
Here we are getting at what bi-directional means. The spiritual healing thought in treatment that eventuates in one group of soybeans becoming less moist is the very same treatment that eventuates in the other group of soybeans becoming moister. Thus, the mending-effects of prayer are bi-directional.
A majority of volunteers didn’t know what the needs were or which group was which.
Prayer that was holy enough did occasion a movement toward normalcy for the two soybeans groups. That is, one person praying giving singular treatments resulted in both soybean groups becoming more normal simultaneously. The over-soaked beans gave off moisture and the under-soaked beans took on moisture. Prayer met their separate needs.
Aside from volunteers who occasioned the proper healing patterns for the beans, other people’s prayers produced other patterns. Some people prayed and they had an effect, but the effect was manipulating the soybeans into patterns of moisture that were not in the beans’ best interest. Spindrift found sincere people who thought their prayers were spiritual, but in fact the effects from their prayers were their own mind’s preconceptions of what should happen to the beans. There is one lesson here. We should be careful what we pray for. We just might get it. We should pray first to rid ourselves of our plans for how prayers should work or be affirmed.
Other volunteers prayed for the test and didn’t get any results.
The control group soybeans stayed the same or in some cases moved slightly in a direction.
The lesson is, isn’t it remarkable that the Divine Intelligence, or if a scientist prefers the nonlocal information data base, knows the needs of these plants? The needs were met according to the context of the needs. Many of the people praying knew they were praying for some need, but they didn’t know what the need was. There was a Knowing that knew.
For More Information on the Spindrift Research Prayer Experiments Please Visit: www.SpindriftResearch.org