The View From Here

In the Cold War, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. saw "remote viewing" as a weapon. What about now?

Suppose that everyone was naturally intuitive ... but that time and society and work and friends and family and bad times and good times helped teach you to ignore your natural urges. Suppose that society and all the above things taught you that you needed to find the answers to stuff outside yourself; that they taught you that you needed "experts' to help you find the answers. And suppose that someone, one of many, figured out that this ability was there! And that you could tap into it at any time. And this person wasn't taken seriously by society, which dictates that you find the answers outside yourself, but this person was taken seriously by a group of secretive, combative, paranoid, militaristic, folks who thought, "Wow, what a perfect weapon ...." Suppose these militaristic folks figured out how to teach people to tap into this amazing ability at will.

From Manual for Remote Viewing by Prudence Calabrese, director of TransDimensional Systems

In 1972, during the height of the Cold War, the CIA launched a classified project to train and utilize psychic spies. The "remote viewing" project, based out of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), was a direct response to the U.S.S.R.'s similar training of military personnel for long-distance spying and, while the American government was far from comfortable admitting an interest in parapsychology, it was less comfortable missing out on what Charlie Rose, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence,once called "a hell of a cheap radar system." The project, which purported to develop a systematic strategy for accessing latent clairvoyance, operated surreptitiously for 24 years, under such evocative code names as GRILLFLAME, SUN STREAK, STARGATE, and CENTER LANE, before it was finally declassified and terminated in 1995. But, by that time, government-trained remote viewers had already set out on their own, working for hire in the private sector and training civilians who were interested in remote viewing themselves.

One such person was Prudence Calabrese, a scientist who was studying nuclear physics and working at a cyclotron facility designing magnets when she "had a moment of self-realization."

"The things that I was looking for -- the answers to life, what the universe holds, who are we? -- weren't going to be found in any tiny particle in nature," Calabrese says. "They wouldn't be found in a church or another person. Everything I needed to know I already had."

In 1995, while the mainstream media was in a frenzy over the estimated 11 million to 20 million tax dollars wasted on "mind readers," Calabrese saw a Nightlinespecial with Ted Koppel interviewing former SRI project monitor and analyst retired Major Ed Dames. Fascinated with remote viewing, Calabrese signed up to be trained by civilian remote viewer and Emory University associate professor of political science Courtney Brown. Brown had studied under Dames, and founded the Farsight Institute, a nonprofit research and educational organization focused on remote viewing, after releasing the much-maligned Cosmic Voyage, a record of extraterrestrial visits to Earth as well as alien sites, on and off this planet, supposedly gleaned during his Scientific Remote Viewing® sessions. Calabrese was a quick study. She found herself acting as vice president of Farsight for two years until, disillusioned with what she deemed to be nonscientific protocols, she quit Farsight to start her own company, TransDimensional Systems.

An intelligent, seemingly down-to-earth mother of four, Calabrese has, in her short tenure as instructor, personally taught more individuals remote viewing techniques than any other trainer. She claims to have worked for two recent presidential administrations, as well as numerous police departments with unsolved cases, innumerable civilians searching for missing family members, and countless high-tech companies looking to get the jump on the competition. She employs several full-time staffers and 10 freelance viewers who work from their homes, zeroing in on targets known only to the client. She also speaks at seminars and conducts intensive weeklong classes all over the world.

I arrive at the Finnish Brotherhood Hallin Berkeley, a little disappointed by the quaint, white stucco building, but heartened to learn the class is being held in the basement. The room is cool and impersonal, despite the cookies and candy strewn across one table. Calabrese is as nondescript as the setting: athletic, with short brown hair, utilitarian overalls, an easy, if not heartfelt, laugh, a firm handshake, and serious, direct eyes.

Although an essay posted on TransDimensional Systems' Web site, "The Grey Dude: One Woman's Perspective," chronicles Calabrese's ongoing nighttime visitations with an alien who imparts information packets that are often prophetic in nature, Calabrese takes care to frequently downplay the New Agey expectations her work engenders. She doesn't wear long, flowing purple scarves. She doesn't claim to know whether the alien that visits her is a hallucination, a psychic conversation with herself, a government deception, or the real deal. She doesn't claim to know anything for certain. She just claims that something happens.

"Most people assume that remote viewing is going to answer all those questions and mysteries that have followed them around in life," writes Calabrese in the manual I received in the mail. "In reality, this new vision of reality increases uncertainty ... and you are left with even more questions than you started with. ... The actual experience of "viewing' can leave the viewer feeling frustrated, even disappointed."

The warning doesn't stop people from trying to "view."

There are 12 students, including myself (under the code name "Midget"); "Elias," a writer for UFO Magazine, who has seen Calabrese demonstrate her talents at a convention; "Bindu," a video game developer who already took a weekend course in remote viewing with another instructor; "Foxy," a housewife and grandmother who read Courtney Brown's book; "Silent Wind," who is a graphic designer with a wide range of New Age experiences; "Zamora," a spiritual therapist and business consultant; "Longbeach," a hypnotherapist who went through remote viewing courses led by former military viewers David Morehouse and Lyn Buchanan; "Shado," a government secretary for the city of Oakland and organizer of East Bay Contact & Support Networkfor individuals interested in UFO-related phenomenon; "Discus," a consultant for the Department of Defense; "Roo," a graphic designer and Discus' fiancee; "Ratgirl," a hypnotherapist and mental health counselor working on her doctorate in clinical psychology; and "Ocean," a hypnotherapist and acupuncturist.

After brief introductions and a little background from Calabrese, we get down to business.

"You will be using portions of your brain when remote viewing that you don't normally use," says Calabrese. "You will experience physical side effects: exhaustion, headaches, shakiness, dizziness. You may experience weight loss, get colds."

We are told to take ginkgo biloba, ginseng, vitamins, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and essential fatty acids. We are given IQ tests and personality tests, and taught the difference between blind sessions (where the viewer does not know the target), double blind sessions (where neither the viewer nor the monitor knows the target), and informed sessions. We are taught the difference between real data and analytic overlay, which causes the viewer to jump to erroneous conclusions regarding his or her impressions. We are taught image streaming techniques and told to memorize ideograms for motion, structure (man-made), subject (living or otherwise), mountain, water, and flat surfaces. We are taught to observe our physical, emotional, and mental states before beginning a session. We are each given a blind target in a sealed envelope. Calabrese calls out four random numbers, and we draw transit lines and explore the physical density and topography of our ideograms as they come to us.

The subject is revealed as a photograph of several snowy mountains. The similarities in the collective data seem more striking than the differences: white, cold, wet, spongy, windy, damp, gritty, dirty. The words are repeated on most of the sessions. Cynically, I wonder if it isn't like a class in which each person is given the same horoscope believing the information applies specifically to him. But, I can't deny that Shado drew three mountain ideograms in her final pictogram. The next blind subject is a photograph of a welder; the most common words in our sessions are hot, red, motion, work. I don't know what to think. We are given homework, three pages of ideograms and vocabulary assignments to enhance our powers of description. The point of remote viewing is not to name, we are reminded, but to describe. It's not easy. The mind naturally jumps to conclusions. That's analytic overlay. Thousands of years of evolution, useless in remote viewing.

We are spent.

The next day, we pair up with other students (one is a viewer, and one a monitor), and spread out in two large rooms to ponder sealed envelopes. We sit with stacks of blank paper under our pens, hoping for impressions. It seems simple, a rudimentary stream-of-consciousness task. But the mind is thorny and complex. It can go suddenly, painfully blank for long, agonizing minutes, then become overrun with blaring static, images of television shows, hamburgers, and machine guns, then nothing again. A lot of the sessions "look very good" according to Calabrese, but by the end of the day, some of us are beginning to show real signs of wear. Calabrese decides to give us a "woo-woo" target, just for fun. The words that come to my mind are organic subject, filmy, pale blue, billowy; then energy, jagged, red, white, orange. I keep seeing an eye. A big eye. The target is: "The most significant moment in the viewer's most recent past life." We laugh, but some students are complaining about headaches and irritability.

During day three, we are taught more tools for exploring the target. Already, the sessions take more than a half-hour each, a half-hour of pure, focused concentration, using a quiet part of the mind not usually accessible during waking hours. It's hard work, but it's just the beginning. Calabrese tells us that thorough sessions can take hours, even days. The transit line, the ideogram, the topography, the physical density, the descriptive words, the declaration, the pictogram -- these are just the beginning. Now we are to explore the pictogram for sensory data (smell, touch), magnitudes (quantity, dimension), topology (shape, contour), energetics (energy, movement), subjectives (emotion, psychology), physicals (things in 3-D space), paraphysicals (things not in 3-D space), conceptuals (abstract thoughts, idea words), symbolics (proper names, metaphors, symbols), personal response, and deductions. This graph, called the matrix, can take as many as 20 pages. Calabrese divides the class and gives sealed targets. One of the targets is the bombing of Dresden. Most of the viewers are visibly shaken even before the target is revealed. There are common impressions: death, heaven, fire, tornadoes, explosions, dead people, marching, crying, uniforms. The woo-woo blind target is the creation of the world. There are lots of tunnels, bright light, womblike scenarios, and one perfect drawing of a godlike central character radiating light to masses of little people.

By day four, I've stopped hoping that Calabrese will view a target for the class. I'm too exhausted, wiped out, overemotional. I feel like I've run a marathon for three days. I feel near tears. I have to take a break. Roo is in the parking lot crying. Silent Wind is missing. But the rest of the class is seeming to improve. I watch the sessions. Shado is consistently on target, coming up with words and drawings that are vague, but impressively close to target every time. Others seem to have flashes of telepathy: For the blind target of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley's wedding, Foxy draws a man and woman in fancy clothes escaping over water. For the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, all the student viewers come up with some variation on thick, male, cable, thrusting, tubular, phallus, tunnel, waterfall, salty.

By day five, most everyone is convinced that something is really happening here. Calabrese still hasn't demonstrated her ability for us, but even Discus, the most skeptical of all the students, seems convinced of something, even if he's not entirely sure what. I don't know what I believe about all of this, but I'm not surprised to find that Shado has been offered a full-time job working for Calabrese.

As a parting shot, Calabrese gives a blind target -- "winner of the 2000 presidential election" -- to half of the class. (It's summer, months before our current electoral nightmare began.) The phrases that come up: U.S. national anthem, death, cemetery, no hope, depression, regret, tragedy, loss, religion, disaster, devastation, proud, failure, sadness, living under ground, sacrifice, victims, mass migration, people fleeing, large flying craft. Ocean comes up with the message, "I am sacrificed. I do not deserve this, but it needed to be this way. I am helpless." Calabrese says this is the most disturbing data she has seen from such a target and promises to have her professional viewers look into it.

The e-mail message that I received from Calabrese back on June 13 read: "Darn. So much for redecorating my bomb shelter... OK, guys and girls, the results are IN! And the professional data indicates a high probability that Bush is going to carry the election with no bombs or ecological monstrosities in the background (other than the usual stuff going on in the world)."

I still don't know.

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