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HDS Event Explores Overlap of Meditation, Technology, and Medicine

By Jordan E. Virtue, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Divinity School Augmented and Virtual Reality Collective hosted an event Thursday featuring a series of speakers and demonstrations examining the ways in which technology can influence neuroscience and meditation.

At the event, speakers presented medical and scientific research related to the mind. Dr. Jeffrey D. Rediger, a Harvard Medical School professor and Medical Director at McLean Hospital, described studying a hundred cancer patients who had experienced spontaneous remission.

He said the trends challenged his skepticism of spiritual and psychological healing methods.

“In medicine, we’re embarrassed by them, we call them flukes. After a while, after you talk to these people, you start to see this pattern,” Rediger said. “I think these things happen outside of what we understand about the physical laws of nature.”

MIT research scientist Andreas Mershin spoke about the importance of nurturing curiosity.

“If we sustain it, if we ask better questions, we start becoming a much more powerful community and much more powerful individuals,” Mershin said. “Questions are more powerful than answers.”

Also at the event, Baruti KMT-Sisouvong, director of Cambridge’s Transcendental Meditation Program, evaluated the role of transcendentalist thought on the individual and society.

Technology demonstrations following the speaker portion of the event. They included demonstrations of “When We Die,” a virtual reality program designed to prompt contemplation of mortality, and “Chi,” an app designed to provide a virtual reality simulation of Tai Chi.

The Virtual Reality Collective hosted the group Consciousness Hacking, a Cambridge-based association of thinkers at the event. Consciousness Hacking is a collective that aims to explore technology as a pathway towards “psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing,” according to the group’s website. Their research focuses on technology and neuroscience.

“This is hopefully a community that lives their questions, which is totally exciting and exactly what I hoped for,” said Adam H. Horowitz, a leader of Consciousness Hacking and a co-organizer of the event.

Those goals are similar to the work that the Augmented & Virtual Reality Collective hopes to tackle.

“I came to HDS essentially to ask the larger question of what kind of world we are building in this technological landscape, and how can we build for well-being and really the whole human being,” said Tim L. Gallati, a student at the Divinity School and founder of the Augmented & Virtual Reality Collective.

—Staff writer Jordan E. Virtue can be reached at

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