THE INTENTION EXPERIMENT: Can our thoughts affect the physical world?

An Interview with Lynne McTaggart

by Janice Hughes, Share Guide Editor

An internationally recognized spokesperson on the science of spirituality, Lynne McTaggart is the author of five books, including the international bestseller The Field. In Lynne’s new book, The Intention Experiment, she takes the ideas popularized in The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know? and shows how and why intention works. She explains that thought generates its own palpable energy that you can use to improve your own life, help others, and even change the world.

The Intention Experiment is not just a book. Lynne invites us all to participate in cutting-edge experiments to prove the power of intention. She has created a series of web-based experiments with leading scientists around the world to test the power of our thoughts to change the physical world. Thousands of volunteers from 30 countries have already participated in The Intention Experiments thus far. As the architect of the experiments, Lynne is working with leading physicists and psychologists from the University of Arizona, Princeton University, the International Institute of Biophysics, Cambridge University, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. These experiments have produced amazing results and may cause you to question your idea of the world and physical reality. Lynne’s work proves beyond doubt that we are all connected. The implications of this discovery are extraordinary. If a quantum field holds us all together in its invisible web, we have to rethink our definitions of ourselves and how we interact with every facet of our lives.

The Share Guide: Lynne, there’s a potent quote in your new book that seems to sum up the whole concept of intention: “To think is to affect.”  Doesn’t this idea change pretty much everything about the way our society is set up?

Lynne McTaggart: Definitely!  Everything we do is based on the concepts of Newtonian Physics, which are 300+ years old.  Newton’s ideas describe a very well-behaved universe of separate objects operating according to fixed laws in time and space. While Newtonian physics works very well on one level, it doesn’t cover everything. New discoveries in quantum physics are indicating that everything is connected. We used to believe that there was a physics of the large and a physics of the small. We’re now understanding that there is one physics–the laws of the quantum world are applicable to the world at large, the great big world of visible matter. Those laws suggest that the observer has an effect on reality. And there is evidence that our thoughts have the capacity to change physical matter. That being the case, we have to rethink almost everything, because we’ve perceived a world based on separation, but the world that we’re discovering now is a world of unity, where all things are fundamentally connected at the subatomic level.

The Share Guide: You write about factors that can change the effectiveness of intentions such as preparation, and the right time and the right place. What do you think is the most important factor?

Lynne McTaggart: More than anything else, I would say it’s a focused mind. But there are many, many factors and it’s not just one element. That’s why in my book I did a whole section distilling the practice of so-called intention masters, like master healers and qigong masters. All of them use many common techniques and have similarities between them, but the most important thing is first clearing the mind with a meditative state, and then achieving a deep and intense focus.

The Share Guide: So that is the essential difference between masters and just anybody off the street?

Lynne McTaggart: Yes. It’s the difference between really using intention or just wishful thinking.

The Share Guide: When I read your book I found myself wishing for more dramatic results from the experiments, something that would silence the skeptics completely. So why have as your goal to use intention to increase plant growth 10%–why not go for 50% instead?

Lynne McTaggart: Because in real science, an increase of 10% plant growth over the norm is really dramatic. Imagine a child growing 10% faster than usual and you’ve got an enormous result. What you are suggesting is fireworks going off, but what the scientists have convinced me to do is to take things one step at a time. So we started out with just seeing if we could affect the light emissions of a leaf with our thoughts. Then having accomplished that, we moved on to see if we could change the physical growth rate of plants. We accomplished that with a group of 500 people sending intention from thousands of miles away–from Sydney, Australia. I think that’s pretty amazing! Now this year we’re doing even more dramatic stuff. We’ve done another set of experiments since I wrote the book. We changed the cluster structure of water. So now that we know we can affect physical processes with our minds, we want to move into some practical applications.

Dr. Gary Schwartz and I are building an ecosphere with a glass terrarium. It’s a little mini Gaia, with primitive animals and plants in it. We’re going to try to change CO2 levels or the temperature with our thoughts. We’ll have lots of equipment inside the terrarium that we can measure and we’ll just keep monitoring it. If we can do that, that has enormous implications for our ability to affect global warming. I’m also working with a professor of material science at Arizona State University. We are setting up an intention experiment to change bacteria in water from bad bacteria to good bacteria. If we can do that, that also has enormous implications regarding the power of thought to clean up polluted water. In addition, I’m working with Deepak Chopra and the Association for Global New Thought. We’re going to create a giant peace intention experiment in the autumn, which will be sending out intention to lower the crime rate and violence levels in certain hot spots in the world. That, again, is going to have pretty amazing implications–but first you have to start small before you go big.

The Share Guide: We interviewed Stanislav Grof recently, who wrote a lot about the concept of synchronicity–meaningful coincidences that defy rational explanation, like thinking about a praying mantis and having one suddenly appear in front of you. Do you see a connection between synchronicity and intention?

Lynne McTaggart: I guess you could define synchronicity as a kind of thought manifestation. So, yes, there is a connection. There are people who are able to manifest things with their thoughts amazingly well, because they are able to use the power of intention in a very sophisticated way. For me, what’s really interesting and compelling is the method used by masters of intention, such as qigong masters, master healers, Buddhist monks, and so forth. They all seem to use very similar techniques. They have individual methods, but they also have a lot of common practices that they’ve developed for many years–and that seems to allow them to manifest many things. I think experience is what really counts.

The Share Guide: Another person you wrote about that we’ve interviewed is Dr. Larry Dossey. He has studied the power of prayer for healing, which is a form of intention. In The Intention Experiment you mentioned a couple of famous prayer studies that were inconclusive. Do you think that prayer is viable for healing and they just need to do the studies better to prove it?

Lynne McTaggart: Oh, yes, and there are many studies of prayer that have demonstrated that it works. The problem with the big Harvard prayer study and the Duke University study, is that they were destined to fail–they had some real problems in study design. For instance, they just gave the participants the first name or initials of the person they were supposed to pray for. It would be like to trying to call you if I only had the first three digits of your phone number! I’ve look at many, many healing studies and when they are handled in a very vigorous way, studies do demonstrate that the power of intention and prayer definitely works.

The Share Guide: One thing that Larry Dossey said in his interview with us is that he has trouble with the term “energy medicine” because it’s misleading. He said we’ve got to go beyond energy metaphors to describe how influence happens at a distance. There isn’t an energy exchange because we’re not actually separate. Would you agree with that?

Lynne McTaggart: Absolutely! When you talk about energy healing, it sounds like a sort of mental radio. It’s that old Newtonian paradigm I was talking about. In fundamental physics, it’s believed that we are separate entities, and if one thing is going to influence something else, you’ve got to do something physical to it. In other words, you’ve got to burn it, freeze it, drop it, or give it a good swift kick. Whereas, what we’re discovering is this kind of instantaneous effect that doesn’t require any energy to go from A to B. That’s what’s very confusing to people about quantum physics. Two quantum particles that are non-locally connected are like two twins that have been separated at birth. One is in New York and one is in California, but they continue to influence each other instantaneously: If one falls down and breaks his leg skiing at Tahoe, the other one is going to fall down and break his leg at exactly the same moment, even though he’s drinking a cup of coffee in New York. We’re talking about a kind of instantaneous influence without any force. That’s why we need to talk about something more than energy medicine. I really prefer a more defined terminology–even “distance healing” works better for me than energy medicine.

The Share Guide: Is intention more powerful when it’s done in person or is distance totally irrelevant?

Lynne McTaggart: Distance doesn’t matter at all. We demonstrated that with our intention experiments. We had thousands of participants scattered around the globe, and the target was in Arizona, thousands of miles away, yet we showed big effects.

The Share Guide: People seem to get better at intention with practice, just like any skill. Shouldn’t we be teaching it more in schools to children so that we can help change the world?

Lynne McTaggart: Oh yes, absolutely. The problem is that kids still learn from an educational model that glorifies the individual and glorifies competition–which in turn glorifies separation. Kids also learn about the world as a scientific entity–the Newtonian vision that tends to color every aspect of our lives. They are taught that they are limited by the five senses; there’s nothing extrasensory. If children were to learn that their thoughts matter, imagine what that might do? You see, kids learn from a very early age to be competitive and nasty and to think badly of their fellow children, but if they were taught that their thoughts were actually radiating out and affecting things and affecting others, that would probably change things.

The Share Guide: You talk about how negative intentions seem to be stronger than positive ones. That’s a little scary, isn’t it?

Lynne McTaggart: It is scary. People often think happy thoughts are stronger than negative thoughts, but in my book I discuss experiments that show that’s not always the case. Sometimes negative thoughts could be more powerful, but in any case negative intention works just as well as positive intention.

The Share Guide: Can’t we can use that to our advantage? For instance, with cancer cells, thinking about them negatively is positive for the human overall.

Lynne McTaggart: Yes, that’s a really important point. Many people, when they try to kill cancer or an infection, are often told to imagine a battlefield and visualize killing the cancer cells or bacteria.  That is negative intention and it’s used all the time by everyone from healers to individuals to Qigong masters, who use destroying mind to overcome opponents and they use it to great effect. Really effective intention, I think, takes power and experience to have the biggest effect.

The Share Guide: How do you ward off negative intention?

Lynne McTaggart: I like the work of Dr. John Diamond, who was the father of behavioral kinesiology. He found that there’s only one thing that prevents people from being weakened by negative thoughts, and that is what he calls the “homing thought,” which is the sense of what you were put on this earth to do. It’s the thing you do that transcends everything. If you keep that in mind when you’re bombarded by someone’s negative thoughts, that makes you strong.

The Share Guide: What do you think of Dr. Emoto’s experiments? He put labels with positive or negative words on jars of water and it altered the structure of the water crystals. This was featured in the film What the Bleep do We Know.

Lynne McTaggart: I’ve had a number of correspondences with Dr. Emoto and we’re discussing doing an experiment together. I think that Dr. Emoto will be the first to admit that it’s not necessarily proven in any rigorous scientific way, but he’s very keen to do that. I think his stuff is fantastic, and very intriguing, and now just needs some more rigorous scientific replication.

The Share Guide: What do you think about the book and film, The Secret? That seems very much in line with what you’re doing and I’m wondering why you weren’t in it.

Lynne McTaggart: I was invited to be in it but I wanted to spend that time with my children. I think they had a really good message and it was a great introduction to these ideas. It was done in a very simple way to bring in an entirely new group of people to these ideas. The one thing I would add to it would be to explain that experience matters. It takes a little while to become a master of intention, but it’s open to everyone. There are certain techniques that are better than others but it is a learned skill. I really want to applaud The Secret because they made it so easy and simple and that meant that thousands and thousands of people were introduced to these ideas, which is a fabulous thing. What a book can do, like mine, is provide all the science behind it. That isn’t possible in a film that’s meant to go to a mass audience.

The Share Guide: Did you have a connection with the film, What the Bleep do we Know?

Lynne McTaggart: I’m in the director’s cut, Down the Rabbit Hole. They wanted me in the first version of it and my youngest child was too small; I just didn’t want to leave her.

The Share Guide: At the end of your book, you encourage readers to go to your website and participate in group experiments. How’s that working out?

Lynne McTaggart: I’m delighted with what’s happened so far because I didn’t expect us to go as far as we did in the first year. We didn’t know whether or not there was a threshold number, a critical mass needed to have effect with our experiments. Our success was quite amazing to me–even with the tiny group of 100 people in New York sending an intention to Tucson we had success. One of the biggest challenges wasn’t proving the power of intention, but figuring out how to overcome the technological challenges of trying to get thousands of people on the website at the exact same moment. The technological challenges were kind of shocking because we just hadn’t anticipated it. We went through three web designers, and we tried renting a host of servers–just for an hour during the experiment–which is a very expensive thing to do. Now we have a great web designer who had the ingenious idea to put us on the social networks because they have thousands of linked servers. We’re renting from a company that had hosted Pop Idol (the British version of American Idol). We need that kind of server power because we have thousands of people all staring at the same webpage. I think there’s 500 linked servers on the network we’re using now and that has really held up. So now we’ve solved that problem and we’ve also proven with our intention experiments that we can affect a host of physiological processes.

The Share Guide: What do you have planned next?

Lynne McTaggart: Now we’re pushing into the next level, to see how far can we go with this. We want to concentrate on alleviating the catalogue of illness and misery on the planet. We’re looking at intention experiments that can affect global warming, pollution, poverty, or violence.  Right now we’re planning the Gaia experiment, which is with a little mini world we’re creating in a terrarium. We’ll try lowering the temperature, changing the CO2 levels, and do many other things on that little terrarium because that, in a sense, will be our test case for planetary changes. We also have a water experiment we are planning where we’ll try to clean up polluted water by mutating bacteria. We have an experiment planned for the autumn which will be a massive intention experiment for peace using many, many groups of people sending intention to hot spots around the world. Another thing we want to do is try raising the grade point average in schools, which would be a wonderful intention experiment. So we have many exciting things planned.

The Share Guide: So people can join this community for free and sign up online to participate in it, right?  Is there a list of upcoming experiments on your website?

Lynne McTaggart: Yes. People should sign up online and then they’ll get weekly information and updates about what’s going on. We want to let people know about five or six weeks in advance of each experiment so they can put it down in their calendar. What’s happened in the past is everybody comes online at the appointed time and we usually have some Reiki music playing on the website and we have a specific intention posted. We all focus on whatever image is there on the website. When people sign up, we ask some things about them that scientists need to know, such as have they meditated before, what their age is, what part of the world they come from, and so forth. That helps us determine details about our experimental group, because this is going to be written up in a scientific journal. Also, I send people who sign up an abbreviated version of my Powering Up Program because I want them to practice intention techniques. I want everybody to use more or less the same homogeneous techniques.

The Share Guide: Any other plans with your work for the future?

Lynne McTaggart: If we’re not separate then we have to really rethink the way we do things. Everything we do in our lives is based on separation and competition–from how we educate our children to how we operate our businesses to how we set up our neighborhoods to how we run our countries and our planet. My current work is very much about bringing these ideas into everyday life, so I want to mention that we are doing a series of intensive seminars around the United States this year. We’ll be in Chicago, May 16-18, and we’ll be in Los Angeles July 11-13. We’ll also be in the Portland area on August 8-10. Details are at That’s where my real interests lie right now: moving this out of the laboratory and into everybody’s lives.

Learn more from Lynne McTaggart and sign up to join The Intention Experiments for free at

Related Articles:
The Pull to Wholeness
Self-Healing with Energy Medicine
Stanislav Grof, MD, PhD on non-ordinary states of consciousness
Larry Dossey, MD on holistic medicine and prayer
Ron Roth on energy medicine
Duane Elgin on The Living Universe
Jack Canfield on The Secret and The Law of Attraction
Heal Mind & Body with Qigong
Healing in the Age of Energy

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