Tag Archives: Psychical Research

Reflections on Wikipedia from Russell Targ

russell-targ-and-onyx-the-catFor many years I had a pretty well balanced biography page on Wikipedia. I am now 80 years old, and had several scientific careers. I was a pioneer in the earliest development of the laser from 1957 to 1972. I was co-founder of an ESP research program at SRI from 1972 to 1982. And I worked for 12 years with Lockheed and NASA on airborne laser wind measurements. The Wiki editors have removed all trace of my 27 years in lasers, and I cannot put back one word.

The editors, who mindlessly and passionately hate ESP, have trashed any positive aspects of our $20 million, 23 year program at SRI. Those numbers, in particular, are always removed. The negative comments are now more than three times the length of my brief bio. I cannot even mention that my wife was the sister of Bobby Fischer, former world chess champion.

As I try to repair these deletions, I have been banned from editing my bio. As I see how the editing process works at Wikipedia, I would not trust anything at all that I read there. Because of this mad prejudice, I think Wikipedia has debased itself as an information source.

Warm regards,
Russell Targ

Russell Targ is a physicist and author who was a pioneer in the development of the laser, and cofounder of the Stanford Research Institute’s investigation into psychic abilities in the 1970s and 1980s.


Remote Viewing, Reality, and the Human Condition: Reflections on a Weekend with Russell Targ


There is no other discipline that I know which engages at the same time a person’s critical faculties and his imagination and then stretches them both to a comparable extent.

– John Beloff, “The Study of the Paranormal as an Educative Experience

On the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the United States’ longest running parapsychology research laboratory is hidden behind a humble facade. This is fitting for a research institute that delves into the very root of our experience of consciousness: that hidden realm lying beneath our own humble human facades.

Founded in the 1930′s by psychologist J. B. Rhine, the Rhine Research Center, as it is now called, has been at the forefront of research into anomalous human experience for more than seven decades.  It continues today as one of the most active and publicly engaged parapsychological research groups in the world, and the friendly folks at the Rhine are more than happy to share that experience with anyone who is honestly inquisitive about their work.

On October 19th and 20th, 2012 I attended a two-day seminar that was hosted by the Rhine Research Center and presented by Russell Targ, co-founder of Stanford Research Institute‘s Remote Viewing program, which has become famous for providing training to the U.S. military’s so-called “psychic spy” initiative. As John Kruth, Executive Director for the Rhine, pointed out, the training given to those that attended the recent seminar at the Rhine (including myself) was the same training provided to the original SRI group.

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“Till immersed in that mighty ocean”: Perils of Awakening in a Universe of Hungry Ghosts

Immersed in the Mighty Ocean

Down, down, I sank, till immersed in that mighty ocean where conflicting elements were swallowed by a mountain wave of darkness, which grasped me within its mighty folds and I sank to the lowest depths of forgetfulness.

– Andrew Jackson Davis, quoted by James Webb in The Occult Underground

It is not possible for anyone to see anything of the things that actually exist unless he becomes like them. This is not the way with man in the world: he sees the sun without being a sun; and he sees the heaven and the earth and all other things, but he is not these things. This is quite in keeping with the truth. But you saw something of that place, and you became those things. You saw the Spirit, you became spirit. You saw Christ, you became Christ. You saw the Father, you shall become Father. So in this place you see everything and do not see yourself, but in that place you do see yourself – and what you see you shall become.

– From The Gospel of Philip, Trans. Wesley W. Isenberg

A cold fire calling from beyond time or space, its light refracted in the prism of apparent materiality, who can stand the sight of themselves stripped of skin and bone, who can listen with ease to that haunting song sung without a mouth or breath? Who can kiss Diana’s lips and still stand in the material realm unchanged?

We live in a world between mirrors, beneath us the ground, above us the sky, and beyond each an infinite space filled with potential. Immersed in our own being, everywhere we look we see reflections of our nature.  Perhaps, as the Gospel of Philip states, we see the sun without becoming it, but its fiery nature awakens in us a recognition of our own being, and we are able to make some symbolic connection that goes beyond mere allusion. This tendency regulates our daily lives, allowing day-to-day experiences to anchor themselves in previous expectations. Mirrored wherever we look, our future emerges from the shadows of past evidence.  From this security we can drop a line into the depths of our senses, fishing out insights and answers. Sometimes, however, what we catch pulls us under, leaving us lost in the swirling currents of our self, and if our identity fractures on the hidden rocks reaching up from beneath the surface, we run the risk of drowning.

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Awareness, by Eileen Garrett (Excerpt)

Eileen J. GarrettThe Education of most of us has been dominated by modern emphasis upon substance, “reality,” and the senses. But deep in the structure and quality of human nature there reside supersensory capacities, known of old but temporarily neglected, by means of which man is capable of achieving knowledge of the immaterial world, capable of perceiving events that occur in space-time beyond the reach which science claims for the senses. 

This immaterial field of human perception is as factual to awareness and as real to life as the field of substance, and we are constantly brushing the edges of its reality in our intuitions, our day-dreams, and our creative inspirations. All of these constitute the fringes of supersensory perception, though for the most part they occur outside the areas of our awareness. We have not been adequately taught how to grasp these gossamer filaments of the future, which tomorrow, will be present; nevertheless the human consciousness is becoming aware of itself and of its affinities throughout the universe. The visions, apparitions, premonitions, and other supersensory manifestations of being, which men and women experience in times of impersonal tension and uplift, are factually true in consciousness… 

Curiosity, courage, experience, understanding—these are the steps in the ever-rising development of individual lives and of the human consciousness as a whole. Science seeks to discover the established, the repeatedly demonstrable, and religion seeks to serve and sustain the basic laws and truths of being, even those which are incomprehensible to our finite abilities. And between these two broad racial highways the individual follows a middle path, each one according to his ability and his talent, seeking and finding his measure of truth, receiving and reflecting the light of life according to his capacity and need. 

These activities in consciousness are not illusions, but foreshadowings of the future toward which we are so swiftly moving—which we are already experiencing, in fact, in our more subtle sensitivities. In our own field, and by virture of our own nature, we are active collaborators with the creative principle in the universe; and as we become indentified with it, we expand both our nature and our field of life.

Eileen J. Garrett
Helix Press, New York, 1943 

Mrs. Garrett has made a special study of th apparent psychological, physiological and biochemical correlates of mediumistic and other psi phenomena. Although as a sensitive she is conscious of the widespread tendency to view mediumistic phenomena as indications of survival of human personality after death, she holds the view that other factors — such as a tapping of race memory or the deep unconscious — may be involved. 

In 1951, to encourage organized research in psi, Mrs. Garrett after much hard work was able to set up the Parapsychology Foundation, which supports through grants impartial scientific inquiry into the total nature and workings of the human mind and makes the results of this research publicly available. The foundation sponsors inernational conferences in parapsychology and publishes the quarterly International Journal of Parapsychology as well as a bi-monthly newsletter, and a series of monographs on parapsychology. 

Mrs. Garrett has written widely on parapsychological subjects. Her books in this field include My Life in Search for the Meaning of Mediumship (1938); Telepathy: In Search of a Lost Faculty (1941);Awareness (1943); Adventures in the Supernormal (1943); The Sense and Nonsense of Prophecy(1950); Life Is the Healer (1957). She was editor of Beyond the Five Senses: An Anthology from Tomorrow (1957), an Does Man Survive Death? (1957); and co-author of Man the Maker (1946). Under the pen name Jean Lyttle, Mrs. Garrett is author of the novels Today the Sun Rises (1944); Threads of Destiny (1961). 

from Helene Pleasants (1964) Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946-1996 NY: Garrett Publications

Note: This excerpt is courtesy of the Parapsychology Foundation and the Psychic Explorers Club

William S. Burroughs – On Coincidence

El Hombre Invisible

William Burroughs, “On Coincidence”:

Certain pragmatic observations are useful for travellers in the magical universe. One law, or rather expectation, is that lightning usually strikes more than once in the same place.

Here’s a big fire in a Kentucky night club, over a hundred dead. Heroic busboy announced the fire and calmed the guests, or the casualties would have been higher. Look through newspaper morgues. Yes, there was a fire in that location before, in another night club. No injuries. And here is a night spot on the border between France and Switzerland. Pop group called ‘De Sturm’ playing. Two hundred dead in fire. There was a fire there before. Several injured. One incident tends to produce similar incidents. Incident may relate to a place, a set of circumstances, or a person.

You can observe this mechanism operating in your own experience. If you start the day by missing a train, this could be a day of missed trains and missed appointments. You need not just say ‘Mektoub, it is written.’ The first incident is a warning. Beware of similar incidents. Tighten your schedule. Synchronize your watch. And consider the symbolic meaning of missing train. Watch particularly for what might be a lost opportunity.

Suppose you encounter a rude clerk, waiter, bartender elevator man. Shuffle through the morgue of your memory. It’s all there. Why he’s a dead ringer for a rude clerk in Tangier London, Hong Kong. Even used the same words. You asked for an item and he said…

‘I never heard of it.’

Life is a KillerStop. Look. Listen. What were you thinking just before this affront was offered you? What keyed the previous incident in? Empty your mind. Let your legs guide you. You may remember a disinclination to go into that shop in the first place. Stop. Change. Start. You will notice that pleasant encounters with nice friendly helpful people also come in series. And the only valid law of gambling is that winning and losing come in streaks. Plunge when you are winning and stop when you are losing.

‘To him that hath shall be given. From him that hath not shall be taken even that which he has.’

Any system in gambling or in life that entails doubling up when you lose is the worst possible system.
Writers operate in the magical universe and you will find the magical law that like attracts like often provides a key note. The sinister clown in Death in Venice. The stories of John Cheever abound in such warnings of misfortune and death ignored by his compulsively extroverted and spiritually underprivileged Wasps.

I gave my writing students various exercises designed to show how one incident produces a similar incident or encounter. You can call this process synchronicity and you can observe it in action.

Take a walk around the block. Come back and write down precisely what happened with particular attention to what you were thinking when you noticed a street sign, a passing car or stranger or whatever caught your attention. You will observe that what you were thinking just before you saw the sign relates to the sign. The sign may even complete a sentence in your mind. You are getting messages. Everything is talking to you. You start seeing the same person over and over. Are you being followed? At this point some students become paranoid. I tell them that of course they are getting messages. Your surroundings are your surroundings. They relate to you.

If you can cool it and achieve a detached viewpoint you will see that in many cases incidents are neither good nor bad nor especially portentous, occupying a neutral area. Here I am, up at 72 and Broadway, way out of my neighborhood up there for a doctor appointment. I pass a Deli and decide to go in and get a few items. No stores near where I was then living on Franklin Street below Canal. I notice a young man in the store. Later he is sitting opposite me in the subway going downtown. I see then that we are in the same incident band and I know he will get off at Franklin Street. No he wasn’t following me. No tail would be that clumsy. We were both out of our neighborhood, both thought of the same thing at the same time … Better pick up some … and we intersected …

There are many variations of the walk exercise all designed to show the student how incidents are created and how he himself can create incidents.

Gambling with Psi – Money Making Mind Tricks

kansas-city-kitty-dreamOne of the great things about living in the southern United States is that you can still easily find gas stations that sell Lottery Dream Books.  For those unfamiliar with them, these are small pulp print books that provide lists of common thematic elements appearing in dreams. Regarded as superstitious novelties by many, these books were once a cornerstone of gambling culture with the promise of offering insight into what numbers to pick on your next bet, as well as more general interpretations for symbols found in dreams and synchronistic events.*

What interests me about these simple manuals is their ability to systematize a symbol set which can be slowly memorized and tied to intuitive responses. Once the supernatural cover story is dropped, what you essentially have is a folk version of the art of memory with the intention of accessing dream states and day to day synchronicities to heighten intuitive functioning.

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What happened to the ‘experimental counter-culture’?


The ‘experimental counter-culture’ – its a wonderful term that highlights the potential of digital collaboration for enhancing the avant-garde experimentalism that produced some of the most deep reaching science of the 20th century.  In an interview with pioneering consciousness researcher Dr. Charles Tart, Greg Taylor, Founder of The Daily Grail, highlights how science can become a rigorous adventure into the unknown:

GT: Do you think that the revolutionary work undertaken by individuals and groups in the 1950’s (such as the Round Table Foundation) had an influence on the rise of the experimental “counter-culture” of the 1960’s and 70’s…or were they simply parts of a larger trend in the way humans thought about themselves?

CT: No, I’m sorry to say that Puharich’s research has been almost totally ignored by scientific parapsychologists at the time and since then. I fear this has been a big loss. Puharich had a lot of influence in more fringy, “New Agey” circles, but that has not resulted, to my knowledge, in any solid scientific discoveries. As to the counter-culture, that was created by a combination of existential discontent with a shallow, materialistic culture, plus a desire for actual spiritual experience, not just being told what to believe, plus the introduction of oriental meditation techniques – something you could actually *do* instead of just believe – plus psychedelic drugs, which showed many, many people that there were more profound experiences possible than consumerism – to vastly oversimplify a complex historical phenomena, of course.

CTT-at-Round-Table1The Round Table Foundation, mentioned by Greg, was the brainchild of Andrija Puharich. Consisting of a fully equipped laboratory set up in a rural location in Maine, the original group saw collaboration between figures such as psychedelic explorer, Aldous Huxley, the famous medium, Eileen Garrett, and a number of prominent socialites and inventors to create a think tank that put experimentation before assumptions and produced viable medical technology as well as insights into anomalous cognition and consciousness. As a protege of Puharich’s, Charles Tart’s own work would go on to influence the development of scientific investigations into Altered States of Consciousness, lucid dreaming and Out of Body Experiences. Continue reading

Psi & the Subliminal Mind – Thoughts on an Excerpt from Sir William Barrett’s On the Threshold of the Unseen

“It is doubtless a peculiar psychical state that confers mediumistic power, but we know nothing of its nature, and we often ruin our experiments and lose our results by our ignorance. Certainly it is very probable that the psychical state of those present at a seance will be found to re-act on the medium. We should get no results if our photographic plates were exposed to the light of the room simultaneously with the luminous image formed by the lens. In every physical process we have to guard against disturbing causes.

If, for example, the late Prof. S.P. Langley, of Washington, in the delicate experiments he conducted for so many years – exploring the ultra red raditation of the sun – had allowed the thermal radiation of himself or his assistants to fall on his sensitive thermoscope, his results would have been confused and unintelligible. We know that similar confused results are obtained in psychical research, especially by those who fancy the sole function of a scientific investigator is to play the part of an amateur detective; and accordingly what they detect is merely their own incompetency to deal with problems the very elements of which they do not understand and seem incapable of learning. Investigators who, taking an exalted view of their own sagacity, enter upon this inquiry with their minds made up as to the possible or impossible, are sure to fail. Such people showuld be shunned, as their habit of thought and mode of action are inappropriate, and therefore essentially vulgar, for the essence of vulgarity is inappropriateness.

Inasmuch as we know nothing of the peculiar psychical state that constitutes mediummship, we ought to collect and record all conditions which attend a scucessful seance. Mediumship seems in some points analogous to ‘rapport’ in mesmeric trance, and it would be interesting to know whether a mesmeric sensitive is more open to mediumship than the rest of mankind. Again, are those who are good percipients in telepathic experiments also percipients in spontaneous telepathy, such as apparitions at the moment of death, and are these again hypnotic sensitives? Similar questions also arise as to somnambulists; in a word, is there anything in common between the obscure psychical states of these different classes of sensitives? Very probably there is, for all psychical phenomena, as we shall see directly, involve to a greater or less extent the operation of an unconscious part of our personality, a hidden self which in a medium emerges from its obscurity, as the normal consciousness and self-control subsides. This fact does, indeed, afford some clue to the peculiar psychological condition of mediumship.”

– from p. 120-122 of On the Threshold of the Unseen, by Sir William Barrett, F.R.S. (1917)

In researching parapsychology it has been fascinating to see how these studies have developed over 130 years of scientific scrutiny since the official founding of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. Existing in a liminal realm of inquiry which penetrates both the center and the periphery of human experience, studying the history of investigation into exceptional human experiences provides a very potent ground for understanding the intellectual development of the past century.

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