virus: Critical Mass of Enlightenment

TheHermit (
Sun, 11 Apr 1999 23:42:58 -0500

The "Critical Mass of Enlightenment", sometimes known as the "Hundredth Monkey" phenomenon, and also sometimes known by the more scientific sounding, but equally bunkum term "morphic resonance" invented by Rupert Sheldrake, is far from being a new idea. The following article with a few additions by me was lifted from the Skeptik's Dictionary ), a site worth consulting whenever your bullshit detectors begin to twitch! If the "Critical Mass of Enlightenment" ravings expressed recently on this list have not caused your bullshit detector to slam into the overload range, it is time to have it serviced.

This snake-oil concept has been exploited by shamans and other con-artists for years (e.g. the TM movement), to say nothing of wishful thinkers and the simply deluded. Deciding which of the categories a particular exponent of ridiculous concepts belongs to, is left as a task for those who have more time than sense. Why people choose to transmit memes like this is less important than the obvious lack of rational skepticism applied to
"paranormal" phenomena, which leads to people publishing bunk like this
based upon unfounded or indeed refuted (as this one is) research and hypothesis.

The hundredth monkey phenomenon refers to a sudden spontaneous and mysterious leap of consciousness achieved when an allegedly "critical mass" point is reached. For example, people start thinking about ending world hunger. One person gets another to start thinking about it who gets another who gets another not ad nauseam or ad infinitum but until suddenly a breakthrough is achieved when the "critical mass" point is reached. Then, spontaneously and mysteriously, everybody starts thinking about ending world hunger.

The expression "hundredth monkey" comes from an experiment on monkeys done in the 1950's. It was alleged by Lyall Watson in his book Lifetide that one monkey taught another to wash potatoes who taught another who taught another and soon all the monkeys on the island were washing potatoes where no monkey had ever washed potatoes before. When the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes, suddenly and spontaneously and mysteriously monkeys on other islands, with no physical contact with the potato-washing cult, started washing potatoes! Was this monkey telepathy at work or just monkey business on Watson's part?

It makes for a cute story, but it isn't true. At least, the part about spontaneous transmission of a cultural trait across space without contact is not true. There really were some monkeys who washed their potatoes. One monkey started it and soon others joined in. But even after six years not all the monkeys saw the benefit of washing the grit off of their potatoes by dipping them into the sea. Lyall made up the part about the mysterious transmission. The claim that monkeys on other islands had their consciousness raised to the high level of the potato-washing cult was a lie. The origin of the tale is the 1979 Lyall Watson book, Lifetide. Watson has since confirmed he made the story up. In 1989, Watson said "It is a metaphor of my own making, based on very slim evidence and a great deal of hearsay. I have never pretended otherwise."

The notion of raising consciousness through reaching critical mass is being promoted by a number of New Age spiritualists, including Ken Keyes, Jr. Mr Keyes has published a book on the WWW which calls for an end to the nuclear menace and the mass destruction which, he claims, surely awaits us all if we do not make a global breakthrough soon. The title of his treatise is The Hundredth Monkey ( ). In his book he writes such things as "there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!" Well, it seems to be working for spreading the word about the hundredth monkey phenomenon! In fact, there seems to be no end to those seeking spiritual transformation of themselves and the universe. Witness the M100 or Hundredth Monkeying! project ). "Our prayer is to bring benefit to all of world society without prejudice or bias." Who could complain about such a goal? Well the age of unreason excemplified by some list members might be upon us, but the CoV is theoretically a rational organization. To claim any kind of "scientific" validity for this concept requires that it meet the requirement of repeatability, predictability and falsifiability. So far I have not even seen a demonstration of "collective consciousness" never mind a suggested method of falsifying its supposed existence.

If you want more information on hundredth monkeying, you should read Morphogenetics and Monkeys ). It has all the latest stuff on building up your inner-energy field , doors of perception, healing and the millennium. It must be very exciting to part of a global fellowship of soul nourishers. As the Monkey Man says: "...healing the human heart is central to all other necessary changes in the twenty-first century." Amen.

further reading

Follow-Up Senior Researcher Comments on the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon in Japan by Markus Pössel and Ron Amundson The Theory of the Hundredth Monkey Debunked
"The Hundredth Monkey" by Ken Keyes, Jr. Amundsom, Ron. "The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon," Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1985. Reprinted in The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, ed. Kendrick Frazier (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991). $18.36

Amundsom, Ron. "Watson and the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon," Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1987.

Possel, Markus and Ron Amundson. "Senior Researcher Coments on the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon in Japan," Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 1996.