home events shop articles stories links media

Retrocausal RealityShifting:
Adventures in the Fine Art of Changing the Past

By Cynthia Sue Larson


Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael, California
September 2 - 4, 2006

Conference Coordinator and Editor
Ruth-Inge Heinze
University of California, Berkeley

© Cynthia Sue Larson



Retrocausality, sometimes referred to as 'backwards time causality' or 'reverse time causality' is defined as the future influencing the past, with effects preceding causes. This view adopts a symmetrical treatment of time which allows causal movement in two directions, rather than only from past to future. Physicists Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog's concept of a 'top down cosmology' views the universe as having begun in every possible way, with the most probable pasts being determined right now. In contrast with the assumption that time must always flow in one direction from past to future, this new cosmological model depends on the retrocausality idea that effects can precede causes on all levels of reality, not just in the quantum realm.

The'double standard fallacy' of thinking about and treating the past and future differently is but "a projection of our own temporal asymmetry." [1] One-directional causality leads us to feel hope for the future, but not for the past. Rather than viewing time from a narrowly constrained point of view, theoretical physicists are now adopting the Archimedean 'view from nowhen' to better comprehend how two-directional causality easily resolves long-standing paradoxical problems in quantum mechanics. [2]

We find a large body of evidence for retrocausality, from recent research results as well as from thousands of years of anecdotal evidence describing incidents in which cause has followed effect. Through experimental studies we see that people can perceive future events before they occur, as well as influence events that have already occurred in the past. Historical accounts describe how people often experience time-reversed phenomena, such as: precognitive dreams, miraculous spontaneous healings, manifestations, synchronicities, meeting their future selves, and recalling memories of past lives from future times.

Concerns about the possibility of contradictory causal loops, in which it might be possible to undermine one's own existence if one's ancestors are harmed, appear to be unfounded.


The concept of retrocausality plays a prominent role in developing a unified 'Theory of Everything' which describes everything from the largest cosmological bodies to the smallest quantum particles/waves through all time. [3] The concept of retrocausality first sprang into public view following discoveries in the field of quantum physics in the 1940s. Retrocausality was acknowledged as part of the theoretical concept of bi-causality, which appeared necessary in order for the universe to function as elegantly as it tends to operate. [4] Physicists are interested in finding graceful theories that describe space and time consistently and symmetrically, with a minimum of special requirements to accommodate when or where a given mechanism operates. The quest for symmetry was such that eventually physicists noted the long-standing bias toward assuming a one-way arrow of time from past causes to future effects.

One of the strongest objections to backward causation is that it might include 'paradoxical' or contradictory causal loops. Such concerns appear unfounded upon closer examination. Oxford philosopher Michael Dummett established logical requirements for a process by which reverse causality could transpire, which philosopher Huw Price amended so that when A causes E, it can be possible to detect whether the event E occurs before the time that event A occurs:

"... what is crucial is not merely that E should be detectable, but that it should be detectable
without disturbing the circumstances under which A is claimed to cause E." [5]

The very nature of quantum mechanics is such that these requirements can be easily met, since, for example, if the state of a photon is influenced by the next polarizing filter it encounters, the only way to tell for sure whether the state of polarization in the future affected the photon in the past is to put another polarizer in the path of the photon, before it gets to the future polarizer in question. This automatically means that if we do that, the future polarizer is no longer the very next polarizer... so there is no problem with contradiction. [6] The phrase "a watched pot never boils" could then be said to apply to the field of retrocausality, where success depends upon allowing events to transpire undisturbed by those wishing to observe what's going on. The experimental science of retrocausality made a significant leap forward in 1976 when German-born parapsychologist Helmut Schmidt conducted an experiment that focused on peoples' abilities to influence previously generated random numbers. [7] A long sequence of previously recorded numbers ranging from one to four was stored on a paper punch tape which was read by an electromechanical paper tape reader which would light one of four lamps after the test subject pressed a button, working with the instructions to make the number four lamp light with increased frequency. Whereas the sequence of numbers on the tape outside the range of the subject's influence had the predicted equal distribution of numbers, the test subjects significantly increased the number of times lamp number four was lit, indicating they had retroactively influenced the outcome. Schmidt published results from further retrocausality experiments in 1993 with theoretical physicist Henry Stapp, working with subjects who were able to retroactively influence the rate of decay of radioactive isotopes. [8]

Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp presented an explanation for what had happened in Schmidt's experiments, proposing that human consciousness had interacted with the numbers in such a way that they altered the past when the numbers were first recorded.

"... it would appear that in certain experimental situations willful human acts, selected by
pseudorandom numbers generated at one time, can shift, relative to the randomness predicted by
normal quantum theory, the timings of radioactive decays that were detected and recorded months
earlier on floppy discs, but that were not observed at that time by any human observer."

handshake betweeen future and past
'Handshake' Between the Future and the Past

Physicist John Cramer published a transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics in 1986 [10], which described a two-way contract between the future and the past in a non-local fashion. While we normally observe retarded waves that move outward away from emitters in a past-to-future causality direction in much the same way as ripples move away from a pebble tossed into a pond, Cramer described that there also exist advanced waves which transfer energy, momentum and other information from the future to the past.

The symmetrical beauty of Cramer's transactional interpretation is that it most elegantly provides meaning for quantum equations in such a way that can be confirmed by observing the polarization and behavior of entangled pairs of quantum particles. Cramer's use of retrocausality at the quantum (very, very small) level of reality was a giant step forward for retrocausality. In 1998, physicist Fred Alan Wolf offered a quantum physical resolution for Libet's "delay and antedating" hypothesis/paradox, in order to explain certain temporal anomalies that Libet had noted in which humans had been shown to physically respond to external stimuli before their brains had time to register awareness of those events. [11]


The theory of "top down cosmology" presented by physicists Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog describes how the universe can be viewed as having had no single unique beginning, but that it actually began in every possible way. [12] Hawking and Hertog suggest that countless alternative worlds existed at the time of the creation of the universe, meaning that we can now picture the universe in its first moments as a superposition of all possibilities, something like watching an infinite number of movies playing simultaneously. Referring to quantum experiments that have consistently shown how quantum particles exist in both wave and particle form, essentially covering all possible paths, Hertog clarifies:

"Quantum mechanics forbids a single history" [13]

When we consider how only a small number of possibilities could have blended together to create this universe, it's much easier to understand how it can be that we live in a world that seems so statistically unlikely. Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose determined through analysis of entropy's relation to probability that our universe is uniquely special to the mind-boggling point that it's one in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123. [14] The relative smoothness of our universe in its earliest days was such that it is extraordinarily exceptional, as entropy was statistically at an extremely low point. This gives us a sense of normalcy of things tending to move outward, like ripples on a pond moving outward in concentric circles around the place where something entered or exited the water, or like smoke particles dissipating into the air. Physicists look forward to testing the top down cosmology theory by seeking trace elements of other possible realities, which this theory expects to find built right into our universe, as some alternative universes are expected to have left their imprint behind on ours. According to top down cosmology, the present selects the past, and the questions we ask right now are already making a significant difference in the various alternate histories in our past. This top down view helps explain why many of the so-called constants of nature are perfectly tuned to precisely what's required for life to exist here on Earth. By looking back to the past with the conditions we require now, the universe can most easily select the histories that best lead up to this present situation.


It's not only entirely possible, but it seems highly likely that many intuitive hunches and insights come from our future selves, who with 20:20 hindsight enable us to avert disaster. Institute of Noetic Sciences laboratory director Dean Radin has conducted numerous experiments that clearly establish the existence of presentience, working with experimental subjects who consistently show physiologically measurable responses in advance of viewing emotionally charged images. The significance of the research Radin has conducted and reports is worth taking a moment to fully comprehend:

"When you step back from the details of these studies, what you find is a spectacular body of
converging evidence indicating that our understanding of time is seriously incomplete. These
studies mean that some aspect of our minds can perceive the future. Not infer the future, or
anticipate the future, or figure out the future. But actually perceive it."[15]

We refer to "premonitions" without concern that another way to consider these previews of the future is as our future selves taking an active role in sending information back to the past. Indeed, many of the seemingly strange quantum behaviors such as Schrödinger's cat [16], whose life or death seems impossible to determine with certainty until such time as it is actually observed, and Bell's Theorem, which presents the nonlocal behavior that Albert Einstein referred to as "spooky action at a distance" become much more comprehensible. From a retrocausal standpoint, Schrödinger's cat is alive or it is dead, even when nobody looks. The observer effect then becomes a matter of one's future viewpoint influencing what has already transpired. I have felt some premonitions with tremendous clarity, complete with sounds and sensations... that it was as if I had already lived through an experience before. On one especially memorable occasion, my boyfriend began to park his car at a corner of the block across the street from my apartment and I got a clear and certain sense that there would be a terrible crash at this precise location. "You've got to move your car away from here," I insisted. I was relieved when he moved his car, and yet saddened to later hear the sound of a terrible crash from that parking spot a while later from my upstairs room facing the street below. [17]

I look back on this premonition as communication from my future... from a possible future in which my boyfriend's car actually crashed, and an experience of knowing that I could make a choice in present time that would redirect my future to a different path. While it was most unfortunate that another car was damaged, the fact that it was damaged provided me with information that I had correctly perceived the future.

We can think of the relationship between premonition and retrocausality in terms of Cramer's transactional interpretation of quantum physics, in which there is a kind of hand-shake between future and past, with an "offer" wave meeting its "echo." The closer the attunement and alignment between future and past, the more clearly we may expect to encounter situations in which the past has been altered by the future.


Because time and space are so closely connected, to the point that there is a word and a concept for both together, "the spacetime continuum," we can also expect that many cases of manifestation, synchronicity and spontaneous healing can be considered to also be cases of retrocausality. When we see a parking space open up when we need one, when a cancerous tumor goes away, when someone calls who we haven't heard from in years but were just thinking of, we have engaged a future end point in a way that has influenced the past. Our intentions act as targets for the future we wish to invoke, and this desired future immediately begins working on changing both our present and our past.

Physicists are now pointing out that the very questions we ask in this moment have the power to shape our past. Taking this theoretical concept into a practical more mundane context, these ideas support the notion that we can miraculously observe physical changes as a direct result of our intent.

The director of research at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, William Braud, has reviewed hundreds of experiments that examine a wide range of retrocausal phenomena, such as mental influence of previously generated random numbers, selecting which picture targets will be selected in the future, and being aware of other events that have yet to have occurred. Braud points out that there exist strong theoretical rationales for and an ever-increasing body of empirical evidence consistent with the notion that our intentions can have direct, observable influences on the past:

"A thorough report of several hundred instances of 'spontaneous remission' from metastatic
cancer is available. Is it possible that at least some of these spontaneous remissions are the
result of time-displaced healing intentions on the part of patients, their loved ones, or health
professionals?" [18]

Indeed, this appears to be true. Studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer for patients with a bloodstream infection have found that such intercession was associated with a shorter hospital stay for the prayer recipients and reduced physical symptoms. [19]


I've experienced direct communication from my future self. On an otherwise typical evening in 1978, I was amazed to vividly experience a dream of an older version of myself stepping out of my mirrored closet and into my room. [20] What happened next has intrigued and puzzled me for decades. That shimmering older version of me spoke some soothing words to me as she moved toward my roll top desk where she opened the lower left drawer and retrieved some papers. I felt her love for me, and I spoke aloud... asking her about why she had come and what she was doing... but mostly I was just amazed to see her. Her wise, poised, confidence contrasted strongly with my shy, awkward, teenage nervousness. The next morning, I was shocked to see that the first letters I'd ever received from my high school sweetheart were missing from my desk.

I had a distinct impression of being inspired by my future self one day in November 2000 to spend lunch hour with my daughters while they were in grade school. "You'll be glad you did," she said, and she was right. My memories of having communicated with my future self give my life a sense of purpose, as I am inspired by knowing what I will later care about and what will mean the most to me. Messages I've gleaned from my possible future selves continue to provide me with tremendous inspiration, and a clear sense of my ability to positively influence both the future and the past.


The implication of retrocausality on a cosmic scale is that each of us is continually engaged in the creation of this present moment by negotiating paths forward to our possible futures and back toward our possible pasts. Considerations of the past and the future present us with a dazzling array of alternate universes, as some of the world's most renowned physicists, such as Stephen Hawking, seek out firm physical evidence to confirm the reality of those other possibilities. With new models for understanding how the future can affect the past, it becomes clear that the various alternate histories of the universe that have already occurred depend on the exact questions we ask right now.

On a more personal level, retrocausality encourages us to redefine our sphere of influence. We may begin to hold as much hope for a positive history as we do for a positive future, knowing we are capable of influencing both.

At a recent symposium of physicists assembled to discuss retrocausality, physicist Daniel Sheehan of the University of San Diego commented, "To say that it's impossible for the future to influence the past is to deny half of the predictions of the laws of physics." [21] Indeed, as physicists consider the possibility of time being as symmetrical as space, we are reaching a point at which it becomes increasingly evident that we have a great deal more ability to influence historical events than most of us have ever imagined possible. It will be up to us to learn how best to ask the questions that provide us with the healthiest future and the healthiest past.


Atwater, PMH. (1999). Future Memory. Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ball, Phillip. (2006). "Hawking Rewrites History... Backwards." Nature. June 21, 2006.

Berenda, C.W. (1947). "Determination of the Past by Future Events: A Discussion of the Wheeler-Feynman Absorption-Radiation Theory." Philosophy of Science, Volume 14, 1947, pp. 13-19.

Braud, William. (2000). "Wellness Implications of Retroactive Influence: Exploring an Outrageous Hypothesis." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 6 (1): pp. 37-48.

Cramer, John G. (1986). "The Transaction Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics," Reviews of Modern Physics. 58. pp. 647-688.

Dummett, Michael A.E. (1954). "Can an Effect Precede Its Cause?" Proc. Aristotelian Soc. Suppl. Volume 38. pp. 27-44.

Gribbin, John. (1994). "'Handshake' from Future Makes a Mockery of Time." New Scientist. Issue 1941, September 3, 1994.

Gribbin, John. (1998). Q is for Quantum: An Encyclopedia of Particle Physics. The Free Press, Simon & Schuster. New York, New York.

Hawking, Stephen W. and Hertog, Thomas. (2006). "Populating the Landscape: A Top Down Approach." Physical Review D. D73. 123527.

Lafee, Scott. (2006). San Diego Union Tribune. "Cause and Defect." June 22, 2006.

Larson, Cynthia Sue. (1999). Reality Shifts: When Consciousness Changes the Physical World.

Leibovici, Leonard. (2001). "Effects of Remote, Retroactive Intercessory Prayer on Outcomes in Patients with Bloodstream Infection: Randomised Controlled Trial." British Medical Journal, 323. pp. 1450-1451.

Penrose, Roger. (1989). The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Oxford University Press. New York, New York. pp. 391-449.

Price, Huw. (1996). Time's Arrow & Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time. Oxford University Press. New York, New York.

Price, Huw. (2001). "Backward Causation, Hidden Variables, and the Meaning of Completeness." Pramana Journal of Physics. Volume 56, Numbers 2 & 3. February and March 2001. pp. 199-209.

Radin, Dean. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York.

Schmidt, Helmut J. (1976). "PK Effect on Pre-Recorded Targets." The Journal for the American Society for Psychical Research. Volume 70, July 1976. pp. 267-291.

Schmidt, Helmut J. and Stapp, Henry P. (1993). "Study of PK with Pre-Recorded Random Events and the Effect of Pre-Observation." Journal of Parapsychology. Volume 57. 1193. pp. 331-348.

Stapp, Henry P. (1994). "Theoretical Model of a Purported Empirical Violation of the Predictions of Quantum Theory." Physical Review A. Vol. 50. pp. 18-24.

Swimme, Brian (1984). The Universe is a Green Dragon. Bear & Company. Rochester, Vermont. pp. 1-173.

Wolf, Fred Alan. (1998). "The Timing of Conscious Experience: A Causality-Violating, Two-Valued, Transactional Interpretation of Subjective Antedating and Spatial-Temporal Projection." Journal of Scientific Exploration. Volume 12, Number 4. pp. 511-542.

Wolf, Fred Alan. (2004). The Yoga of Time Travel. Quest Books. Wheaton, Illinois.


[1] Gribbin (1994).
[2] Price (1996: 114-131).
[3] Gribbin (1998: 400).
[4] Berenda (1947:13-19).
[5] Price (2001: 201).
[6] Ibid., p. 201.
[7] Schmidt (1976: 267-291).
[8] Schmidt (1993: 331-348).
[9] Stapp (1994:18-24).
[10] Cramer (1986: 647-688).
[11] Wolf (1998: 511-542).
[12] Hawking & Hertog (2006).
[13] Ball (2006).
[14] Penrose (1989: 391-449).
[15] Radin (2006: 179).
[16] Gribbin (1998: 356).
[17] Larson (1999: 345).
[18] Braud (2000: 37-48).
[19] Leibovici (2001: 1450).
[20] Larson (1999: 214).
[21] Lafee (2006).

RealityShifters Celebrating 10 Years

This web site © copyright 1999 - 2013 by Cynthia Sue Larson
RealityShifters® is a Registered Trademark
All Rights Reserved
Privacy Statement