BY NEIL DICKIE
He looks like a man who enjoys a challenge. Over a hundred members of England’s scientific elite fill this Oxford University lecture hall, listening intently to a powerfully-built, elegantly tailored American. John Hagelin strides back and forth, delivering the latest news on Einstein’s dream, the discovery of a single theory explaining all the physical laws of nature—the Theory of Everything. The hall echoes with his clear tenor voice and the whir and click of a smooth succession of color slides. “The Superstring Revolution,” “Grand Unification,” and “Flipped SU(5)” flash on the screen.
For the first 25 minutes he sticks to physics, narrating the case for the first viable unified field theory. But then Hagelin, his blue eyes flickering with mischief, takes a completely different tack.
He questions the practical or social value of the gargantuan international physics research industry, which consumes as much wealth as many nation-states. “There are no significant technological spinoffs, nor practical applications for this sort of physics,” he says. “How can we justify this enormous expenditure?”
Hagelin declares that physicists must learn to develop their consciousness if they are to find the answers to the ultimate questions. He argues that no subatomic particle accelerator, or “atom-smasher,” no matter how large or expensive, will ever penetrate nature’s deepest mysteries.
To the audience’s even greater surprise, Hagelin then turns to world peace. He says the greatest discovery in the history of science is a powerful new peace-creating technology based on the unified field.
“This technology has nothing to do with super-computers or super-colliders,“ Hagelin says. “It works from the most advanced and powerful product of biological evolution—the human brain.”
The erudite Oxford crowd is startled. So were 2,600 scientists and academics he spoke to at universities and physics research institutions during his 1990-91 lecture tour of Europe. But they listen. Hagelin’s logic and evidence are as impeccable as his attire. And they consider the source.
The New Physicists
For over a decade, starting with a Harvard Ph.D., John Hagelin has been one of a small international cadre of “new physicists,” a breed of scientist pursuing the most exotic and expensive quest in the history of science. They seek the answers to the ultimate questions. When and how did the universe begin? Are human beings spectators or participators in nature? What is the source of the orderliness and ingenuity seen in nature, from the intricate relations of the quarks to the precise pulsations of the universe?
Essential tools of the trade are gargantuan, multi-billion dollar particle-accelerators. They whirl electrons or protons around underground rings as wide as a metropolis, accelerating them to nearly the speed of light. Precisely plotted collision courses give rise to fierce explosions 50,000 times each second—creating astronomically high temperatures not seen in this universe since the Big Bang that started it all 15 billion years ago. The sophisticated computers and other high-tech equipment needed to keep track of all this planned violence costs billions. The Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) now being built in Texas will cost at least $10 billion.
In its search for an all-encompassing theory, the New Physics spans several challenging academic worlds. The New Physicist must understand cosmology, the origin and history of the whole cosmos, along with an exotic zoology of hundreds of sub-microscopic particles—including such species as “sleptons,” “muons,” “quarks,” and “super-heavy bosons.” They must also know the intricate workings of their multi-billion dollar particle accelerators. And perhaps most challenging, they must understand the math—often bizarre and newly invented math.
This formidable span of expertise requires close international cooperation and a jet-setting lifestyle to go with it. Generally, four or more physicists —sometimes as many as 40—each with their own area of physics savvy, work on a typical research project.
Dr. Hagelin has established himself as a leader in this world. Over the past 10 years, 60 of his papers have appeared in the world’s leading physics journals. Several of have become core references in their fields. And in the last two years, Hagelin and his collaborators at the world’s largest physics research institutions, such as CERN in Geneva, and the Texas Accelerator Center, have gained international attention for their part in working out today’s most viable version of a Theory of Everything—a single theory explaining how the four fundamental forces of nature mesh together, and how the world we see around us emerges from a underlying unified field.
But as much as Hagelin has made his mark in physics, he pioneers in exploring the wider implications—and practical applications—of the spectacular theoretical leaps taking place in his field.
Education: Motorcycle Crash to Quantum Mechanics
In July 1970, John Hagelin lay motionless in an infirmary bed at the elite Taft School for boys, encased in a body cast, the result of a high-speed motorcycle fall.
He had had little difficulty winning a scholarship to Taft. His teachers early recognized him as special. He excelled in his studies. He tallied the highest possible score on a school IQ test—a genius level 165. (School officials offered specialized tests to see exactly how high he could score, but his parents declined.)
Interested in everything, he loved to tinker with things. In his early teens, he built his own go-cart from lawn-mower parts. He played sports with gusto and excelled at the piano. “He was an all-round kind of a boy,” his mother says.
He was also a dare-devil. At Taft they added new rules to the student code in his honor. Young Hagelin loved to scramble up the steep slate roof of the main school building and sashay gleefully along its top peak. (He would get there by leaning out from an upper window, grabbing the large hand of the school clock at precisely the right moment, and swinging himself up onto the roof.)
To help relieve the boredom and feeling of confinement after the bike crash, one of Hagelin’s teachers, having noticed his talent for science, brought a text on quantum mechanics. Poring over the abstract equations of Planck and Heisenberg he got hooked on the bizarre mysteries of subatomic physics.
He read about how matter isn’t solid, but the expression of an underlying non-material field. About Einstein’s discovery that at the speed of light time stops and distance shrinks. Even though his body couldn’t move an inch, his mind ranged freely around the universe.
He read with excitement of Einstein’s triumphant synthesis of the dimensions of space, time, and gravity in his theories of relativity.
The young thinker also learned of the great scientist’s unsuccessful search for a grand synthesis of all the laws of nature in a single unified field theory.
Physics, the study of matter in all its subtleties, intrigued and excited him. But he was equally intrigued by the possibilities for exploring the worlds inside himself. His bedside table held a stack of books on yoga and ancient philosophies.
One day early that long summer, a cheerful fellow named Rick Archer walked through the infirmary. He had been invited to teach the Transcendental Meditation technique of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to a group of Taft students and faculty. Rick was bedding in an empty infirmary room. He stopped to chat with John. The discussion quickly turned to meditation.
“Want to learn?” Rick offered. “Sure,” was the swift response.
He took to the practice. His family noticed his increased patience with his confinement. “I noticed an immediate and dramatic improvement in the clarity of my thinking and perception,” he recalls. People and things seemed clearer, seemed to reveal their secrets more easily. And uncannily, he found he often knew who was coming to visit him in the infirmary before they arrived.
Excelling in his final year at Taft, he won a scholarship to Dartmouth. There, in just three years, he graduated with highest honors, finding time along the way to play hockey and intercollegiate soccer.
His Dartmouth professors had high praise for an independent study in physics he co-authored and published. He won a fellowship to study in the Nobel laureate-studded physics department at Harvard.
At Harvard, Hagelin completely absorbed himself in physics. Friends recall how he would often study eight hours at a stretch on only a glass of water. He did physics from fall to spring. In the summer, building on fix-it skills developed as a boy, he repaired hi-fi equipment in a Cambridge audio shop.
His Harvard thesis advisor, Howard Georgi, says predictions made by Hagelin in his doctoral research continue to be verified even today. Papers by Hagelin on these predictions—examining the behavior of the bottom quark as a sensitive probe of physics beyond the Standard Model—have become central references in the field. He continues to be widely recognized as “one the the world’s experts” in this area, says Dr. Georgi.
In 1981 Hagelin won a post-doctoral research appointment at Europe’s largest subatomic physics research laboratory, CERN, in Geneva. After a year he was recruited by CERN’s North American counterpart, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California.
Joining MIU Faculty
But in 1984, Hagelin left Stanford to head the physics department at Maharishi International University (now Maharishi University of Management) in Fairfield, Iowa. He kept up a steady stream of publications in the world’s top physics journals, never forgetting the intense focus necessary to compete in the world of high-energy physics.
Hagelin founded MIU’s doctoral program in physics, and continued his collaboration with CERN, spending several weeks there every summer working with other leading theorists.
“If you let up for literally five minutes in this field,” he once told an audience, “you could lose your edge.”
It was during this period he began serious work in the heady new field of “Superstring” theory, the great hope for a single Theory of Everything.
In the 1920s Einstein’s contemporaries, Kaluza and Klein, proposed basic elements of string theory, but their insights were not taken seriously. They made a reappearance in the 1970s and early 1980s but were dropped because of mathematical inconsistencies. Then in 1985, Caltech’s John Schwarz and Michael Green at Queen Mary College, London, published a paper demonstrating that the equations for one species of string theory were internally consistent.
Even so, their formulation had a major disadvantage. It could not be precisely connected with the “Standard Model” of physics—the accumulated knowledge of how all the electrons, protons, and other particles combine to make up the world we see around us. In 1986, Hagelin was called by his long-time collaborator, John Ellis, head of the theory division at CERN, to help resolve this problem.
The "Flipped SU(5)" Grand Unified Theory
He travelled to Geneva that summer, and began to attack the question in characteristic fashion—16 hours a day.
Hagelin had been thinking about this problem for several years. Now, within a few days, he wrote down his “Flipped SU(5)” Grand Unified Theory (GUT). The theory united three of the four fundamental forces of nature: electromagnetism with the two subatomic forces.
The new GUT was a spectacular contribution in its own right. Weinberg, Salam, and Glashow had taken the Nobel prize a decade before for their electro-weak theory, uniting just two of the basic forces of nature.
But in the context of physics’ all-consuming drive to fulfill Einstein’s dream of a completely unified field theory—one uniting all four forces—Hagelin‘s new theory did something even more important.
Since Hagelin’s formulation derived directly from the superunified level of String theory, it established a link with the known world of physics. The breakthrough bolstered the confidence of physicists and gave a major impetus to the drive for verification of the Superstring.
Until then, a successful Grand Unified Theory had eluded the best minds in physics, including his mentors at Harvard. An early version of Flipped SU(5) had been considered years before by Hagelin’s longtime collaborator, Texas Accelerator Center physicist Dimitri Nanopoulos. But Nanopoulos’s approach could not fully explain key details of the world as known by physicists. But Hagelin, with the help of John Ellis in working out the final details, originated an astonishingly simple set of formulas. They appeared to solve all the major problems plaguing earlier grand unified theories.
He faxed the new formulation to Dimitri Nanopoulos. “Isn’t this the prettiest GUT you’ve ever seen?” he gleefully penned at the top.
What most caught the attention of the physics community was Flipped SU(5)’s elegant solution to the long-standing “gauge hierarchy problem.” This puzzle had "baffled physicists for the last 10 years," according to Harvard’s Dr. Ben Grinstein. Previous GUT’s could not explain how electrons, protons, and other basic particles of measurable size arise from the infinitely small distance scales found at the unified level of creation. But Hagelin’s theory satisfactorily explained how tangible matter emerges from the intangible unified field. Hagelin’s solution is “very impressive,” said Dr. Grinstein.
Over the next four years, Hagelin, with collaborators Ellis, Nanopoulos, and Ignatios Antoniadis of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, published over a dozen papers. Gathering at CERN for several marathon meetings, the four verified in detail the validity of Flipped SU(5) in the context of a simpler form of Superstring theory known as the 4-D String. By the spring of 1990, Hagelin felt confident they had developed the world’s most viable framework for a Theory of Everything.
The story is reported in detail in the August 1991 cover story of one of North America’s largest science magazines, Discover. The article poses the possibility that the four’s work may be worthy of a Nobel Prize.
Commitment to Vedic Science
Dr. Hagelin’s move to MIU in 1984 surprised and puzzled his colleagues. Why risk his steady climb in the physics community by going to an unorthodox university with a tiny physics department in the cornfields of Iowa?
How was the move perceived by the physics community? Says Harvard’s Howard Georgi, “I tried to talk him out of it, and so did John Ellis.” He laughs, “But he continued to do good physics anyway.” Says Harvard’s Sheldon Glashow, a Nobel laureate and crusty elder of the physics community whose autobiography is sparse in praise for his colleagues, says, “His papers are outstanding. We read them before he went to MIU and we read them now.”
The move had not been a sudden impulse. Even in prep school, as he lay in his infirmary bed at Taft, Hagelin sensed that physics, with its purely objective approach, could never yield the ultimate answers. College roommate Jeff Dugan, a teacher of Transcendental Meditation at Dartmouth, recalls how, after meetings of the Dartmouth TM Club, he and Hagelin would talk in the parking lot about physics and Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence until the wee hours of the morning. Hagelin travelled to Vittel, France, to study with Maharishi after his freshman year, and came back qualified as a teacher of TM.
Studying physics at Harvard, he says, “it became clear that answers to major questions just weren’t forthcoming. Physics seemed to have little understanding of the make-up of quantum fields—and no idea of the origin or nature of consciousness.”
In contrast, Vedic Science seemed far more ambitious and complete. “It offered answers to questions physicists weren’t even posing. Even more important, it offered procedures for developing consciousness and fulfilling desires.”
He was sometimes tempted to drop physics and take up a more applied profession. But he turned down attractive job offers in computer science and electronic engineering, staying with physics in the belief that “the discipline would develop to the point where a significant cross-fertilization” would occur with the Vedic Science being revived by Maharishi.
During his postdoctorate at CERN in 1982, he met several times with Maharishi at his international headquarters in Seelisberg, Switzerland. Maharishi himself had taken a physics degree as a young man. They had long discussions on a consuming interest of Maharishi’s—the parallels between modern unified quantum field theories and the understanding of nature found in the experience of TM practitioners and in the ancient Vedic tradition of knowledge.
The communication continued after Hagelin took his new position at Stanford. By 1984, he had made up his mind. He accepted an offer to head the physics department at MIU.
Consciousness and the Unified Field
In 1986 Dr. Hagelin, with Maharishi’s advice and encouragement, authored a paradigm-shattering paper titled, "Is Consciousness the Unified Field?" The first half of the paper, obviously written with fellow physicists in mind, gives an authentically detailed account of the bounding progress toward the discovery of a unified field theory.
In the second half Hagelin announces an equally historic discovery—the discovery of a unified field of consciousness at the foundation of conscious experience.
In the paper, published in the first issue of MIU’s journal Modern Science and Vedic Science, Hagelin builds upon the knowledge and experience of the Vedic tradition, proposing a startling new way of looking at consciousness. He argues that consciousness is fundamental in nature—the lively origin and basis of everything in creation—and not merely the result of biochemical processes in the human brain.
In other words, that human intelligence and the intelligence of nature are at their basis the same. The clear and electric implication: any human being can experience—and harness—the unified field.
He admits that this expanded understanding of consciousness contrasts with the “largely mechanistic view of nature characteristic of our particular time and culture.” Nature, in this view, is seen as "devoid of any of the lively and dynamical characteristics we normally associate with consciousness.”
But Hagelin points out that this materialistic world view is indeed strange, considering the growing understanding in physics, beginning in the time of Einstein, of a “profound connection between human nature and the laws of nature.”
Einstein said, “One may say that the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” Struck by the ability of scientists to precisely and reliably predict physical phenomena, Einstein reasoned that there must be an intimate connection between human intelligence and natural intelligence.
And a distinguished contemporary of Einstein’s, Sir Arthur Eddington, said, “All through the physical world runs that unknown content which must surely be the stuff or our own consciousness.”
Modern authors, such as Paul Davies in Superforce and Heinz Pagels in The Cosmic Code, note the emergence of subjective qualities such as dynamism, intelligence, and self-awareness at fundamental scales of nature’s functioning. Hagelin analyses the central equation of Superstring theory, and derives no less than 30 subjective qualities—including “all possibilities, freedom, unboundedness, self-sufficiency, bliss, omniscience.”
These qualities, “are regularly experienced by people practicing Transcendental Meditation when they dive deep within and explore the more fundamental aspects of intelligence in the mind,” says Hagelin—further proof that the unified field of consciousness and the unified field of nature are the same.
But “Maharishi goes much further in establishing this connection,“ says Hagelin. “The parallels are much deeper than either East or West expected.”
He points out detailed correspondences between the description of the unified field in modern physics and the description of unified field of consciousness in Vedic knowledge as revived and reformulated by Maharishi.
For example, the five tanmatras or “subtle elements” giving rise to creation in Vedic Science correspond to the five fundamental categories of quantum fields, the “spin-types.” The correspondence becomes more profound in the context of the principle at the basis of unified field theories—supersymmetry. It further categoriezes the five spin types into three superfields.
In a precisely similar way, Maharishi’s Vedic Science combines the five tanmatras into the more fundamental threefold structure of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Hagelin points out another basic structural similarity between the two great streams of knowledge. In Maharishi’s Vedic Science, the observer (Rishi), observed (Chhandas), and process of observing (Devata) are unified in a three-in-one structure (Samhita) at the level of pure consciousness. In unified field theories, force fields (Rishi) and matter fields (Chhandas) are united in by a third principle, supersymmetry (Devata) at the level of the superstring.
In a second theoretical paper published in 1989, John makes a more detailed and up-to-date analysis of the numerous parallels between the qualities of the unified field and the qualities of consciousness.
A second level of proof of the proposed identity between pure consciousness and the unified field, he says, is the experience of millions of people.
“This experience [of pure consciousness] is as repeatable, as striking, and unambiguous for the experiencer as any data obtained through the use of particle accelerators. It can be replicated at any time by anyone possessing the requisite apparatus and training. This apparatus and training, respectively, consist of a human nervous system and instruction in the experiential technologies of Maharishi’s Vedic Science— the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program.
Hagelin speaks only of experiencing the unified field through Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation. Why?
In over 500 studies to date, he says, researchers find an consistent range of practical benefits coming uniquely from the regular practice of TM.
But there is a third level of proof equating consciousness and the unified field—one as controversial as it is compelling.
The Maharishi Effect
In his lecture at Oxford, Hagelin presents dramatic evidence for “field effects” of consciousness. “In 1960, Maharishi made an astonishing prediction. At that time, he said even a small percentage of the population practicing Transcendental Meditation in a given area could change the trends of time. They could produce a powerful influence of positivity and coherence in the whole population. And scientists could measure the effect in decreased crime and sickness.
“Fourteen years later, researchers identified a set of 10 U.S. cities with at least one percent of their population practicing Transcendental Meditation. They located 10 matching cities and compared the crime and sickness rates. They confirmed a highly significant difference. About 18 percent less crime was committed in the meditating cities."
Since then, 40 studies have found the same phenomenon—the Maharishi Effect.
“This phenomenon, only possible if our minds are connected by an underlying field, is the clearest proof of the connection between man’s intelligence and the intelligence of nature.”
He explains that “fields carry information.” For example, radio waves are carried by the electromagnetic field. “Such effects must be based on a field phenomena. No other mechanisms are known within science that can account for this kind of long-range effect—except the dynamics of consciousness proposed by Maharishi.
“In sociological studies, a 5 or even 10 percent level of statistical confidence is considered good,” says Dr. Hagelin. “In this study, with the same effect observed seven consecutive times, the possibility of the effect being due to chance was about 1 in 1,000,000. Very few, if any, sociological studies enjoy this level of significance. It’s completely unprecedented.”
Even in physics, he says, this level of statistical confidence is rare.
“The Maharishi Effect is an established fact with confidence unsurpassed in the 400-year history of science,” he concludes. “It directly challenges and shatters any superficial understanding of what consciousness is. It makes clear man’s role as a master of the universe, as one with the unified field.”
Hagelin emphasizes to his audiences the implications for world peace where every other approach has failed. “There is no alternative for the world today,” he says. “The Maharishi Effect represents a proven scientific method for creating a tangible, physical influence of peace that can be produced and sustained on a permanent basis.”
The Unified Field Based Approach
When it comes to naming the source of his inspiration in both physics and Vedic Science, John is unambiguous. He credits his discovery of his Flipped SU(5) Grand Unified Theory to Maharishi’s unified field based approach. “Maharishi’s interest in exploring the foundations of physics, and in connecting the intelligence of the human mind with the intelligence of nature, gave me the impetus to switch the focus of my research to the most fundamental area of my field. This habit of considering nature from its deepest and most unified level helped me see the significance of Flipped SU(5).”
He calls Maharishi today’s “Einstein in the field of consciousness.”
He reflects on the experience of his European lecture tour last year, which he undertook with Maharishi’s encouragement.
In less than 100 days he travelled to 30 cities, speaking to physicists at 18 major universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and the International Center for Nuclear Research in Trieste, Italy.
“The lectures broke a lot of boundaries. Despite the mysterious underpinnings of a discipline that has long disproved many things we take for granted —such as the notion that matter is solid, for example—physicists do not like to think about the wider implications of what they are doing.”
One of the initial "boundary breaking" parts of the lecture he gave on the tour began with his frank assessment of the scarcity of redeeming practical or economic value of the multi-billion dollar physics research industry.
“How can we justify all this enormous expenditure?” he asked the audiences.
He points out it is generally conceded that experimental confirmation of Grand Unified and Super Unified theories is impossible—a particle accelerator the size of the solar system would be needed to create the energy required.
“Furthermore,” he says, “the objective approach of modern science, founded upon the separation of the observer from the system under observation, is essentially unsuited to investigate the fundamentally indivisible structure of natural law at its unified foundation.
“Theorists must rely increasingly on their analytic and intuitive abilities. They have to learn to develop their own subjective competencies.
“The way of the future for physics is in expansion of consciousness, in opening the awareness to deeper levels of human intelligence, and thereby gaining direct insight into the most fundamental aspects of nature’s intelligence.”
He says a powerful tool in this subjective research will be the adoption of a new, more accurate language for physics, based on the language of nature found in the Vedic literature. As he explains in his 1989 paper, "Restructuring Physics From its Foundation in Light of Maharishi’s Vedic Science," there exists an intimate relationship between name and form at the unified level of nature’s functioning. If a natural phenomenon is accurately named, its nature can be explored and known in detail. The key is to introduce the sound at a fine level of thinking known as ritam bharya pragya (“that level which knows only truth”). The accurate names for all forms and phenomena are available in the Vedic literature.
The response from the scientists?
“Considering these people represent the hub of the current scientific, materialistic world view, I was amazed and struck by their ability to follow the lecture. They asked a lot of questions. Some of them frankly skeptical and pointed. But the general response was, ‘It seems reasonable, based on a wealth of empirical data. I want to hear more.’ ”
At the lectures, several hundred physicists established local chapters of Dr. Hagelin’s Maharishi International Association of Unified Field Based Scientists (MIAUFS). The association will sponsor continued communication and research on the practical application of the unified field through Maharishi’s technologies of consciousness.
“It was a breakthrough,” he says.
The Unified Field of Pure Consciousness
In the final weeks of 1991, Maharishi’s Year of the Support of Nature’s Government, John Hagelin started another major adventure in knowledge.
For years, Maharishi had been exploring the structure of the Ved, known in the tradition of the East to be the blueprint of creation—the constitution of the universe. In the late 1970s Maharishi had cognized a detailed understanding of the sequential structure in the sounds of the Ved known as his Apaurasheya Bhasya. With this structure, Maharishi was able to re-cognize and recover many elements long lost to the Vedic tradition of India.
Maharishi felt this structure of sound should have an exact correspondence in the mathematics of today’s leading unified field theory. Who better than John to investigate?
At first skeptical, John, with the help of MIU mathematical physicist Dr. Robin Ticciati, explored the abstract equations of two main variants of Superstring theory (D=4 and D=10). They soon found the detailed and precise correspondence Maharishi had predicted.
In its purely mathematical, objective nature, the discovery provided the most rigorous level of proof that the unified field as understood by modern physics and the unified field of pure consciousness described and experienced in Vedic Science are indeed the same.
Maharishi said the insight carried immense practical significance for the governments of the world.
Two-page notices carried in the International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post in January 1992 say the discovery “gives great confidence that the knowledge of the most fundamental level of natural law, the Constitution of the Universe, is now fully available to mankind.”
The value for governments? John explains that nature is the supreme organizer, able to conduct in an orderly fashion the simultaneous evolution of all the infinite components of the universe. There are no repressed or disgruntled minorities in nature.
As evident in over 500 different studies of Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation, the direct experience of this most basic and concentrated level of order in nature transforms people. “The mind is like a blotter coming in contact with pure liquid orderliness,” says John. Naturally the full potential of mind, body, and behavior gets developed.
When the citizens of a nation know how to access the concentrated orderliness of the Constitution of the Universe in themselves, they gain the ability to satisfy their own desires, at the same time supporting the desires of everyone. The law of the nation spontaneously gains the support of natural law.
“It’s the perfect fulfillment for Maharishi’s Year of Nature’s Government—and the perfect start for his Year of the Constitution of the Universe.”