Mindreading no longer science fiction?
How many thoughts does the average human think each day, do you suppose? Estimates range between 12,357 and 60,000. No doubt that variation reflects variations in how you count thoughts - or how thoughtful someone is!
Driving to work one day, I was struck by a news report on the radio. A science professor from the University of California Berkeley was talking about their
latest experiments. Work has been undertaken to identify the thoughts that, though unspoken, race around inside our heads. By observing patterns of blood flow in the brain related to particular images, and then implanting electrodes in the brain, they have guessed what a subject was thinking of.
They devised a computer model which indicated what brain activity to expect when certain words were thought about. The brain waves of patients undergoing surgery were monitored while audio of various words and phrases was played to them. They then compared these brain impulses with the pattern predicted by the model to see which words the patient was thinking of. They were even able to turn the waves back into sound – unspoken words in the mind being given voice! There are long-term goals for this research: ultimately it is hoped that paralysed patients unable to speak, such as through a stroke, could once again communicate.
While the interviewer gently probed whether the ability to be read someone’s thoughts could be abused, he was assured the benefits far outweighed any potential risks. And that sent a thought racing through my own mind. We have each become adept, in varying degrees, in controlling how many of our thoughts we choose to reveal. What if every one of my thoughts was broadcast on a huge screen for all to read? All my foolish thoughts revealed? Every hateful impulse or selfish motive?
Whatever remarkable inventions man may think up with the mind his Creator has given him, the reality is that all our thoughts are known to God: “O Yahweh, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down, and my rising up; You understand my thought from afar off. You sift my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For not a word is on my tongue, but, lo, O Yahweh, You know it all” (Psalm 139:1-4, J P Green literal version).
So it is not enough to hide our thoughts from each other. Our Lord, who read many minds, knew that “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts”, and that the thought is the father of the deed (Mark 7:21). Rather, we need to control our thoughts in the first place, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The word of God is given as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart – to show us ourselves as God sees us (Hebrews 4:12).
And further, we need to pursue good thoughts: “whatever is true, whatever honourable, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report, if of any virtue, and if of any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Most wonderful of all, however, is our that our Father graciously remembers that we are dust, and is merciful towards our failings: “Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Ps 40:5, NKJV).
So we conclude with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24).