What is Remote Viewing?
Remote Viewing is the practice of gathering information about a specified target -- an object, a place, a person -- usually at a specified location, and at substantial physical remove from the viewer, using means conventionally attributed either to ESP or to what is often more broadly referred to as clairvoyance.
Remote Viewing in the Cold War.
It originated as a by-product of the Cold War, and so has a history different in kind from either the more anecdotal and marginalized history of clairvoyance or from modern attempts to determine whether ESP qualifies as a legitimate part of scientific endeavour. Remote Viewing was from the beginning a program to be developed, with benchmarks to determine success. Scientific legitimacy per se was held in suspension in favour of concrete results-oriented methodologies. The distinction is subtle but important.
At the height of the Cold War, both the United States and the former Soviet Union existed in a state of reciprocal anxiety over what weapons programs or intelligence capacities the other might be developing that might allow one of them to gain a critical advantage over the other. Almost anything and everything became fair game, and when the Russians read a 1959 report in the French magazine Constellation -- "Thought Transmission — Weapon of War" -- regarding alleged telepathy experiments conducted by the U.S. Navy, they purportedly began their own program to keep pace.
Or did they? The French magazine article was apparently based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Navy experiments, and there is evidence to suggest that the Soviet program was an elaborate piece of disinformation theatre with which to distract the Americans. Whether real or staged, the publication in 1970 of Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder's Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain became a catalyst for the US to investigate the paranormal in earnest.
Remote Viewing & MK Ultra.
Use and control of mental states had been an area of American study since at least the early 1950s by way of Project MK-ULTRA, with more than 150 individually funded research sub-projects involving sensory deprivation, isolation, and the use of synthesized chemicals to alter and manipulate brain function. Taken in this context, for the military and intelligence communities to extend research into the paranormal did not seem that much of a jump. The possibility of a psi gap, much like the spectre of a missile gap, was not a possibility that could be allowed.
Indeed, in 1961 the Office of Technical Services within the CIA had contacted the head of the Parapsychological Laboratory at Oxford University on the question of ESP. The report the Agency received said that although ESP appeared to exist, it could neither be understood nor controlled.
Remote Viewing Research.
Roughly ten years later, however, in 1972, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ, two American physicists, tested self-described "consciousness researcher" Ingo Swann for psychokinesis at SRI -- the Stanford Research Institute. Results of the tests were written up in draft form and circulated hand to hand through research and academic institutions until they caught the attention of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology, and an initial $50,000 contract for further development followed.
Swann collaborated with Puthoff and Targ on the concept and procedures of what became known as Coordinate Remote Viewing (CRV), a process in which viewers would view a location given nothing but its geographic coordinates. Accuracy could thus easily be tested, since one could always observe the location or object being remotely viewed and compare it with the subject’s results.
Emphasis was on methodologies that were capable not only of reproducible results but that could also be devolved into a rigorous training program. The initial program proved to be short-lived, however, for in the late seventies, investigations begun in the US Senate by the Church Committee led to the public exposure of a wide range of covert CIA programs involving foreign assassinations, domestic intelligence gathering, and the aforementioned MK-ULTRA behaviour modification program. Given the high-profile exposure of that program's illicit testing of LSD on unwitting civilians, maintaining a CIA-funded program dealing with the paranormal had small chance of a favourable public reception, and the contract with SRI was terminated.
Nonetheless, sufficient interest had accumulated at varying levels of the intelligence and defense organizations for research to continue. In 1973, for example, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) had dealt itself into the game with its request for further comparative study of US and Soviet paranormal research programs, with emphasis on areas where substantial disparities existed. Areas deemed suitable for military application included telepathy and psychokinesis and what was characterized as "long and short-distance information transfer".
Funding for the Remote Viewing program accordingly proceeded through other channels. One direct continuation came from the Air Force, where Dale Graff, then a physicist with the Air Force's Foreign Technology Division, gave a new contract to the SRI research team. Graff wanted to replicate some Soviet psi experiments done in submarines, as well as test the Soviet hypothesis that psi was transmitted via ELF (extremely low frequency) electromagnetic waves.
In 1979, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), which had been providing some taskings to the SRI investigators, was ordered to develop its own program by the Army's chief intelligence officer, General Ed Thompson. That same year, the program achieved its first major success when Remote Viewer Rosemary Smith found a downed Soviet bomber in Africa after other intelligence operatives had failed -- a coup publicly cited and praised by then-President Jimmy Carter.
It is at this point that perhaps the most prominent name in Remote Viewing makes his appearance. Even with the successful instance of the Soviet bomber, test results remained mixed, and a continuing debate involved the respective merit of teachable technique as against the natural gifts of some of the subjects. Chief among these was Joseph McMoneagle, who joined the program in 1978 and was known as "Remote Viewer No. 1" in the US Army's psychic intelligence unit at Fort Meade, Maryland, and to whom a disproportionate share of the positive results could be attributed.
Over time, testing, which had originally been with verifiable targets within the US, was expanded by the CIA to various Soviet targets -- embassies, research facilities -- of which the Agency had detailed knowledge. Expanding further to unknown Soviet targets, Remote Viewing began to take credit for some important real-world successes, including the existence of the new Soviet "Typhoon"-class submarine in 1979. The Typhoon success also seemed to include predictive elements, for Joseph McMoneagle either guessed or predicted accurately the submarine's January 1980 launching.
The predictive element appeared again when Paul H. Smith, who joined the program in 1983 and was another viewer with a high success rate, became convinced that his August 1987 remote viewing of an attack on an American warship, including location, method, and motive, was precognition of the attack on the USS Stark three days later.
In the early 1990s the Military Intelligence Board appointed Army Colonel William Johnson to manage the Remote Viewing unit and evaluate its objective usefulness. According to Paul Smith, Johnson spent several months running the unit against military and Drug Enforcement Agency targets, and ended up a believer, not only in Remote Viewing's validity as a phenomenon but in its usefulness as an intelligence tool.
Joseph McMoneagle has emphasized that all readings by Remote Viewers were intended merely to augment, not supplant, intelligence gained by more conventional means, and at its height the NSA (National Security Agency), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the DEA, Secret Service, Customs Bureau, Coast Guard, and the CIA all requested readings from the program's Remote Viewers.
The program itself had by this time changed name several times -- Scanate, Gondola Wish, Grill Flame, Center Lane, Dragoon Absorb, Sun Streak. In about 1991, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) renamed the program Stargate, by which it is most consistently identified today.
Several derivations from the original SRI concept and procedures had also been developed by this time, and the original CRV (Coordinate Remote Viewing) method became one of a number of protocols utilized under the Stargate umbrella, with participants claiming as many as fourteen labs do research on the subject.
Remote Viewing arriving in the public domain.
At the same time, Remote Viewing had begun to make serious inroads into the public domain, in effect become privatised and commercialized, beginning in 1989 with the creation of Psi Tech, a private corporation developed by some of the Remote Viewing practitioners and program directors. The beginning of a series of books by many of the key early participants were now also beginning to be published, including volumes by Targ and Puthoff, and Joseph McMoneagle.
In 1995, an act of Congress transferred responsibility for the Star Gate program from the DIA back to the CIA, and perhaps in response to the seepage of the project into the civilian world, the Agency terminated the program and released a controversial research report purporting to show that Remote Viewing was not useful as an intelligence collection tool.
Or was that another instance of disinformation? Had two decades worth of psi research finally been discredited, or does classified research continue under other names and remain a decade or more in advance of what the general public is aware -- for Remote Viewing can be seen as following a typical trajectory for most classified technology, in which there is a ten to fifteen year lag time from inception to development and application and thence to final manifestation in the public marketplace, where it appears to the uninitiated as exemplum of "state-of-the-art" technology. In the case of Remote Viewing, the "technology" in question is in fact the potentialities of the human mind itself.
In 2003, some eight years after declassification, the US government released 90,000 pages of Stargate material, constituting nearly 15,500 documents. 20,000 pages are still withheld, and the material that has been released is often heavily redacted. Nonetheless, even in their present form, they convey a scope and reach to the project far beyond its initial $50,000 SRI funding.
Documentation includes sessions on the Iranian hostage problem, remote viewings done after the raid on Col. Qaddafy’s Libyan palace, sessions seeking to locate POWs in Southeast Asia, and a project trying to unlock the secrets of a Soviet rocket explosion over Scandinavia, among others. Remote Viewing research also extended itself beyond this planet, and there are transcripts of several sessions with Mars as the target.
Nor did Remote Viewing research confine itself to present-time viewing. The predictive element noted above was pursued, and there were a number of projects aimed at evaluating how well viewers could recount what would be on the front page of The Washington Post newspaper or on the cover of Newsweek magazine a week hence. There was even one long-term project that involved several viewers tasked retro-cognitively –- against a target in the past -- to see how remote-viewing the past compared in quality to attempts at remote-viewing the present and future.
Documents also show, as in the sixties and seventies, a continuing interest in broader and interlinked applications for the paranormal, with further explorations of intuition, psychokinesis, hypnosis, and of how to screen a population for Remote Viewing talent. What the other side is doing -- or sides, for China had by then become an issue -- remained a constant, and there are hundreds of "foreign assessment" documents on developments in parapsychology and consciousness studies.
Among these "foreign assessment" documents, for example, is a 370-page compilation of research on Qigong, the Chinese practice of aligning breath, physical activity and awareness for the development of human potential --- which finds an echo in at least one of the major privately-funded Remote Viewing organizations, where formal training in meditation techniques is a necessary precursor to RV training proper.
Privatisation continues apace, and although Remote Viewing remains publicly controversial -- as do all aspects of the paranormal -- its methodologies have begun to find industrial and corporate applications. Perhaps that subtle operational distinction between science and functionality was key: placing the question, "Can it work?" ahead of the question, "Is it science?".
Can anyone be trained to Remote View?
Whether the average person can be trained, or whether Remote Viewing is a talent with which only a few are born, the gradual development of methods of reproducible results nonetheless indicates the talent as something real and within the scope and definition of the human, as a latency or potential capable of progression. As humanity increasingly views its nature as something malleable and amenable to intervention and development, the study of Remote Viewing becomes the study of conscious and willed evolution.