This article originally appeared at http://www.barrytaff.net
Is it possible to take normal, healthy, emotionally stable people who do not think they're psychic, and haven't really had any prior experiences to their knowledge, and train them to become functionally reliable psychics?
YES and NO.
That is, it appears that everyone may have some latent psychic potential that can be developed and honed with the right type of positive feedback and reinforcement. However, it's crucial that such feedback occur very close in time to when the person makes a correct or incorrect statement, otherwise it will have little, if any, effect. In order for this learning paradigm to function properly, a person must slowly come to recognize what internal feelings and sensations are associated with accurate paranormal information (signal) access as opposed to inaccurate information, a.k.a. primary process distortion and fantasy (noise).
I suspect that only a very small percentage of the population, maybe between five and ten percent, possess such inherent faculties that are consistently demonstrable.
This is somewhat comparable to sports in that most people can occasionally participate in some kind of sport when young, but few have the strength, stamina, endurance, reflexes and coordination necessary to become a professional athlete in any given sport.
As I'm really into motorsports like Formula 1 and American Le Mans road racing, let's just look at that particular event for a direct analog.
While everyone can essentially drive a car, few could tolerate the extremely high g-loading forces on the neck and arms, where your body would suddenly feel like it weighs four to five times it's weight. Even fewer would have the stamina, endurance, depth perception, reflexes and hand, eye, foot coordination to be competitive in such a grueling physical sport. But this doesn't mean that one cannot learn things to improve their driving skills on the road.
Our psi training groups were held at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI) [now the Semel Institute] on Wednesday nights from 1971 through 1980. These training groups applied positive feedback and reinforcement incorporating a free-verbal response (FVR) as opposed to forced-choice method, as a learning paradigm to enhance and train paranormal perception.
Put more simply, we were attempting to teach people how to differentiate and distinguish between normal fantasy and/or cognitively processed thoughts and informational input from sources that are non-localized from them in space and time, e.g. ESP.
In those halcyon times, these perceptions were referred to as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition, as opposed to the all-encompassing "remote viewing" nomenclature of today. A rose by any other name.
Over the first few years, we had numerous recurring visitors from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Office of Naval Research (ONR), Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the National Security Agency (NSA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Defense Language Institute (DLI) and the Defense Advanced Research Project's Agency (DARPA) as they became very interested in what we were doing and had already achieved.
Initially, we had no knowledge whatsoever of who these recurring visitors were or where they were from until the sessions were completed (a single blind condition).
On one particular early visit, our group was simply given the first name of a man. We suddenly began describing very specific details of a new nuclear ballistic missile submarine and its new, highly accurate, long-range missiles.
When the feedback part of this session was reached and the room lights we turned back on, we were witness to several men sitting there with their collective mouths hanging open with ashen white faces. What in the hell was going on?
Of what they could reveal, our comments very accurately described many of the details for the new Trident ballistic missile submarine (a boomer) and its ten-MIRV'D, D-5 missile. This was all highly classified, sensitive data that we could not have known or had access to.
I guess these visitors were impressed by what we did, as these military intelligence officers immediately demanded the surrender of the audio tape from that session and that we all sign national security oaths. Needless to say, we complied.
Representatives of the various intelligence groups made repeated visits to our group over time to assure themselves that our success on that first night was not a coincidence or a trick.
After we demonstrated that what we were doing was real, demonstrable and reproducible, the various intelligence groups asked that we work with and for them in several capacities.
Sounded like an interesting and compelling proposition?
However, there was one unanticipated and insurmountable obstacle regarding this: UCLA.
Apparently, both UCLA and the NPI itself, were horrified at the thought of being formally, publicly and professionally linked to parapsychology, which was thought of at the time as pseudo-science and quackery by mainstream science, but especially by behavioral science. Such an alliance could have been political suicide for a university dependent on public perception and regular endowments.
Isn't it interesting that more than four decades later, nothing's really changed, has it? Perhaps the fact that the NPI was already associated with psycho-surgery and orbital undercutting was all the negative press it could tolerate.
Due to our unavailability dictated by university politics and damage control, the government's focus shifted northward to Menlo Park, California.
After having conducted these groups for seven years, even the continued positive results we were achieving were now boring. You know, that been there, done that, sort of feeling.
More specifically, we now perceived as somewhat commonplace and ordinary the ability of reaching into another's mind or observing things at a distance. Hard to believe, I know.
However, when there is high degree of success and continuity with such extraordinary research efforts, one tends to become jaded. I guess that this attitude is just part of being human in that we begin taking things for granted.
In an effort to make things more interesting, we decided to attempt our first precognitive effort with this group.
We turned off the lights in the NPI's C-floor observation/conference room and went through our normal progressive muscular relaxation procedure. Once we had attained this hypo-metabolic state, we mentally focused on the "target" person of the next week's first session.
In a way, the verbal reinforcements given during this part of this session were similar to what Christopher Reeve as Richard Collier in Somewhere In Time (Universal, 1980) verbalized when attempting to physically transport himself back through time. Except of course, we didn't expect to physically travel in time, and obviously we weren't producing a fantasy film at the time either.
We began describing the "target" person as a tall, beautifully statuesque, blue-eyed blond girl dressed in a tan business suit. We continued our verbalizations into the centrally placed, amplified, microphone within the otherwise sensory-deprived room as we clearly saw the specific number on the chair in which she was sitting (there were twenty-four chairs in this conference room, each of which was numbered).
As the session continued, we "saw" a very large mansion-like home, within which was a large baby-grand piano. Numerous bits of varying types of personal information continued to flow from our mouths for quite some time. And then, silence.
Vocally piercing the darkened conference room, we all abruptly began describing a tall man wearing all black, with a black hat, black mask, a flowing black cape and an imposing sword. I remember thinking, what kind of crap are we uttering? The session ended and we didn't give much thought to what we had just said because it wasn't relevant yet.
It was now one week later and another group was about to begin. However, on this particular evening, no guest member from the prior week was allowed to bring a visitor. Any new participants on this night could only arrive through third parties who had not been in attendance for the last several weeks, i.e., through independent means.
When each new person arrived they were handed a sealed envelope with a number from one through twelve written on a piece of paper within it. Once in the conference room, we rolled the dice and then asked all new visitors to open their sealed envelopes. Whichever person's number fit the dice roll was the randomly chosen target person for the first session.
We had all pretty much forgotten what we had said a week earlier, so when a statuesque blue-eyed, blond girl's number matched the dice roll, we didn't give it second thought.
I asked this stunning 19-yr old woman, named Toni, to replay the audiotape from the week before and if she heard any statements that directly related to her, stop the tape and comment on them. If the statements were incorrect, let the tape run without interruption. Toni didn't immediately understand what I just said, forcing me clarify this protocol again.
Toni listens, as voices clearly describe her appearance and clothing in detail as well as the exact number of the chair she is seated in. Her look is one of astonishment, although the best was yet to come. When she hears the specific description of the mansion in the hills with the baby grand piano, her eyes open even wider, as those data points were also correct. But those could have been coincidence, couldn't they?
However, then came what I believe to be one of the most fascinating pieces of precognized information that has ever been documented. Let's see if you agree.
When we finished our discourse on the black costumed man with the mask and sword, Toni let out a somewhat muffled scream. There was hesitation in her voice and for good reason.
Toni looked at me and said: "How do you know who I am?" My immediate response was to look at her while shrugging my shoulders, "What do you mean, who you are?" Toni tells our group that her full name is "Toni Williams". We all looked at Toni with blank, expressionless faces, as we did not understand what she was referring to. Who was Toni Williams?
Realizing that our group really didn't know who "Toni Williams" was, she connected the dots for us. Apparently, Toni knew all too well exactly who the masked, darkly dressed, swordsman was. In fact, she knew him for her entire life.
The ornately costumed man turned out to be her father, Guy Williams, the actor who played Zorro in the Disney television series from the late fifties and early sixties. You might better remember Guy Williams from another TV series in the mid-sixties, where he played Professor John Robinson in CBS's Lost In Space.
Toni was speechless and just a little frightened. She looked at all of us as though we were beings from another reality. She sheepishly asked when this tape was made and we told her exactly one week earlier. However, Toni did not even know of, or that she was even coming to our group until several hours earlier that very day!
Toni's question was a simple one. How could we have so accurately described her and her surroundings seven days earlier when she wasn't even aware of us, or of our group?
Indeed, how could we have perceived such an event unless the information pertaining to it already existed? What are the odds of us accurately describing such state specific information about an event one hundred and sixty eight hours before it occurred?
What's the probability of our precisely describing the Zorro character as related to his daughter one week prior to her random appearance and selection as a target in our group? A million-to-one? A billion-to-one? A trillion-to-one? Okay, let's just say astronomical and leave it at that! Does this event sound like we were randomly guessing as to the shape of things to come?
Believe it or not, there have been those individuals over the decades that actually believed that we somehow deduced or logically inferred the information described herein. Give me a break.
Needless to say, Toni never again returned to participate in one of our research groups, as her one experience with us was more than enough. I can certainly understand how unsettling such an unusual experience can be. But then, as I think about it, maybe I can't.
As we were all very impressed with our first foray into the future, we attempted to replicate our results several months later, little knowing what the full emotional impact of such accurately precognized information would have on some of us.
During this second attempt things went very differently though. All any of us could "sense" was fire, and more fire. We didn't know why this was, but it certainly wasn't worth getting all that upset over. Well, at least, not until the next day.
On that following Thursday, while up in the lab on 2-South of the NPI, I heard the arrival of many fire engines. Racing down to the C-Floor, I discovered that our conference room had apparently caught fire due to a shorting socket that sparked the drapes covering the room's west-facing wall. What a coincidence and shock (oops, there's another pun). And no, I did not start the fire myself to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.
After these two successful treks into the future, several of our regular group members became depressed and starting having anxiety attacks about the possibility that the future is as immutable as the past, and that free will may be little more than an illusion.
My response to these reactions was simple, "Who cares! We're still going to live out our lives making daily judgments and choices without knowing the shape of things to come whether the future is random and open to change or predestined." For some reason, my attitude regarding such matters doesn't seem to be shared by many others. Why is that?
For some reason, I cannot as yet fathom the belief that reality is random and chaotic. To me personally, my experiences and research strongly suggest that reality is finitely ordered and predetermined, and this belief gives me a sense of inner peace.
Maybe I just can't accept the notion that anything as vast and extraordinarily intricate and complex as the universe could be the result of random, chaotic energy. No way! Or perhaps, I've had way too many precognitive experiences growing up, both in and out of the lab environment to believe otherwise.
Another fascinating incident occurred several years earlier when a semi-regular to our group, Janet, decided to act as a target for the first time, something she had always refused to do. The room lights were extinguished, the microphones were turned on and target was given as a man's first name, and the rest followed in short order.
Many of us started describing a large, expensive home in a very rustic and seemingly lush, forested area. The home had very large walls made of glass looking out into what seemed like trees and shrubs. The kitchen was lined, quite oddly, with empty jars of Baco-Bits. We then began trying to phonetically articulate this man's last name. While I am unable to provide his name due to privacy concerns as he was and still is quite famous, our vocalizations were within about 98% of accuracy even though it's a rather peculiar last name.
But that was nothing compared to what was about to come forth from our collective mouths. We began vividly describing this man being brutally mugged by several people, it was quite horrible in its ferocity. As we were quite sickened by what we just saw in our mind's eye, we decided to stop the session at that point. Turning the lights back on, we handed Janet the recorder controls and told her to play back the tape and respond accordingly.
This man was someone that Janet had been dating at the time, and he lived in a house almost identical to what we had just described, even down to the point of the empty jars of Baco-Bits lining the lower, exposed shelves in the kitchen. When we learned of this man's last name, it was truly astounding as to how close our pronunciations of it were. But when Janet hit the part of her friend being mugged she was emphatic that such an event had never occurred to either him or her. At least that what she believed.
Several days later I received a rather frantic call from Janet while in the lab. She informed me that on the very night she was participating in our group, her friend was up in the San Francisco Bay area, and was being viciously mugged at the exact time her session was transpiring in our lab.
But wait, if Janet did not know what was happening to her friend hundreds of miles away, then what was the source of our accurate psychic perceptions?
Several years later, one of our regulars, a director by the name of Steve (and no, not Speilberg), who bore a striking resemblance to an older, thicker featured Christopher Reeve, brought a female friend to our group by the name of Roberta. She also volunteered to be a target. Other than her first name we had no idea who she was or what type of unsettling event was about to occur.
Roberta simply gave us the name Al, and that was it. We had no way to knowing who Al was or who he was related to Roberta.
In our sensory deprived room, we began describing him as being around 6'2?, rather stocky, with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. We went on to discuss that he had a very unusual voice and was extremely volatile and violent, where we saw him repeatedly beating Roberta and his eventually killing her. As our comments were getting more and more disturbing in nature, we thought that it was best that we stop the session at that point.
With the lights on, Roberta took the recorder control and started playing the tape back. She was visibly upset, and for good reason.
Roberta told us that Al was her husband, the actor named Albert Salmi, who was always cast as the heavy or villain. If you've watched TV during the last sixty years, you've certainly seen him in everything from Cheyenne, Bonanza, Alfred Hitchcock to three appearances on the original Twilight Zone series, two of the half-hour shows and one hour-long episode.
Remember the one where a man, Joe Caswell, is about to be hanged for murder in the wild west when he suddenly disappears from the hangman's noose and appears within a time machine at the laboratory of Russel Johnson (the professor from Gilligans Island) in 1960? Johnson utters one of the all-time great lines "I know this isn't very scientific, but I don't like his looks."
Caswell eventually kills Johnson's character and ends up being strangled with a window-shade line by a contemporary burglar. The burglar then ends up wandering into the time machine which he accidentally activates, sending him back to the past where he end's up materializing in the same hangman's noose that Caswell began the show in.
Our physical description of Salmi was perfect, as were many other details of his life and living conditions. Finally, Roberta gets to the end where we commented on Salmi's volatile/violent nature.
Very reluctantly, she admitted that Al's been chronically beating her for years and she fears that one day he will kill her. As if this happened yesterday, we told here to leave Albert ASAP. She looked at us as if to say "What, leave Al?"
More than twelve years later, on April of 1990, Albert Salmi, then 62, first shot his wife Roberta, then 55, and then himself.
Back at our groups in the late '70?s, Steve brings yet another guest to our group. This time, it's well known character actor who's worked in both movies and television for decades. You'd recognize his face and voice in a heartbeat. Due to privacy concerns, his name will not be mentioned here, but let's call him Robert.
Robert volunteers to be the target. The protocols are followed and we begin uttering some very strange things in the pitch black room. While we were clearly given the name of a woman, several of us simultaneously start commenting on the fact that this woman was actually a man, a transsexual.
When we finished with the session, Robert began his commentary on our words as if nothing we said was at all relevant. As Robert began verifying one thing after another, the tape finally came to the part where we discussed the altered sexuality of Robert's friend, whom he lived with.
Once Robert heard what we had said, he turned red in the face, rapidly stood up from his chair and abruptly left the room, never to return.
Steve later informed us about Robert's transsexual girlfriend, which then explained his rapid departure from our room. This was probably the last thing that Robert ever expected us to pick up, which is why it occurred.
In what was now well known to us, the more deeply buried something was within the target person's mind, the more likely it was to show up in our comments. And, as part of the introduction to new group participants was to not censor yourself when verbalizing your thoughts, we freely spoke whatever thoughts entered our heads, and it was all too often quite accurate.
Perhaps the most unexpected and astonishing moments of this psi training program was when a girl by the name of Paula visited our group in late 1979. Paula was a rather intense poltergeist agent who is discussed in my book Aliens Above, Ghosts Below: Explorations of the Unknown. While her session was unremarkable in terms of its informational content, its visual component was most memorable.
While seated in our pitch-black room, a very large, bright red, luminous anomaly was emitted by her petite form.
This amazing visual display was about the size of an average human head and almost perfectly spherical in shape. It rapidly shot out across the rather larger room and then just disappeared as if someone had turned off a light bulb.
Our entire group jumped in almost perfect unison upon witnessing this incredible fireworks-like manifestation, and several of us responded with a loud vocal reaction.
We immediately turned the lights on to find Paula crouched down and cowering in her chair, like a terrified 8-year old child. She immediately got up and ran out of the room and the NPI, immediately driving herself home. She never returned to the group, and I do not blame her.
Our psi training groups ran from 1971 through 1980 at the NPI. Once the lab closed, we moved the groups to various off-campus office complexes in the Westwood area for several years and then into the home of one of our regular members.
The program finally ended in 1987, with over 3,200 separate sessions being conducted. The qualitative and quantitative data collected was truly extraordinary and the evidence was overwhelming in terms of demonstrating a highly reproducible paranormal event on demand.
That's why all the various government agencies were so damn interested in what we were doing. We witnessed meteorological effects, tidal effects, as well as the far more subtle, yet pronounced, emotional ones.
I seriously doubt if I'll ever again experience such a consistent level of controlled paranormal experimental results.
Those were the days.
What was learned and accomplished from this program was truly amazing. That psi is both space-like and time-like, which in layman's terms means that it is not affected by distance or time, in that it is indeed possible to access information regarding people and events that are not local to you in both time and space.
That there's really no fundamental difference between telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition or retrocognition. What we call such remotely accessed information entirely depends on where we are at the time we perceive it and where it appears to come from.
But most importantly, it is indeed possible to "train" some people to become psychic. However, there is a major qualifier here.
Just as it is possible to improve anyone's golfing score or auto racing skills, few will become professionals athletes in either sport. Everyone comes to the party with an inherent or latent psychic potential.
On one side side of the bell curve are those people who with some training will become psychic superstars. On the other side of the curve are those people who are totally immune to any type of learning methods as their psychic potential is extremely low or non-existent.
In the middle of the curve are those people who have occasional encounters with paranormal perception, but it's almost random and mostly totally dependent on the specific situation, where emotionally stressful events are the trigger and mediator.
Additionally, each person who does positively respond to these methods seems to develop along different lines. That is, our psychic perception is attracted to and repelled from information just as our conscious mind is. This is a very subjective, need-relevant based mechanism, where we pay attention to those things that are very important to us and we're attracted to, or repulsed from. You could almost refer to this process as being related to the approach-avoidance mechanism spoken of in psychology.
One final word of caution here though.
We did have those situations wherein once someone's consciousness was opened up to this data acquisition method, they began having problems mediating the process and turning it off. And all too often, information was perceived that was very upsetting, unnerving and anxiety producing, especially if it dealt with matters that were out of the control of the recipient.
When this occurred, individuals would have severe anxiety or panic attacks that occasionally resulted in serious emotional scarring. I could write another entire book, based purely on the fallout experienced due to the lack of any proper coping mechanism such people had to this alteration of their perceptual abilities. From developing a messianic complex, to religious zealotry, delusions of grandeur, paranoid schizophrenia, dissociative thinking and borderline personalities. It's was all there, and they were not that uncommon of a reaction to this process.
URGENT: THE CONSCIOUSNESS ALTERING PROCESS BRIEFLY DESCRIBED HEREIN IS NOT A JOKE OR TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL RESTRUCTURING OF THE WAY WE PROCESS INFORMATION BOTH WITHIN AND WITHOUT OF OURSELVES. THIS CAN DRAMATICALLY ALTER ONE'S LIFE AND NOT ALWAYS IN THE MOST POSITIVE WAYS.
IN WAYS FAR TOO DETAILED AND LENGTHY TO EXPLAIN HERE, SUCH SUDDEN AND PERHAPS UNFORESEEN CONSCIOUSNESS DEVELOPMENT CAN BE A TRAP, WHEREIN ONE PAYS MORE ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON INSIDE THEIR HEAD AS OPPOSED TO WHAT'S TRANSPIRING AROUND THEM IN THE REAL, PHYSICAL WORLD. ADDITIONALLY, THERE IS ALWAYS THE INHERENT PRIMARY PROCESS (NOISE) WHICH WILL CREATE DISTORTION, AS WELL AS AN ELEMENT OF REFABRICATION AND DENIAL.
IN LAYMAN'S TERMS, THIS MEANS THAT THIS MECHANISM IS FLAWED WITH A RELATIVELY LOW SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO IN MOST CASES AND DOES NOT WORK PERFECTLY. FACTORS SUCH AS MOTIVATION, STIMULATION, FATIGUE, BOREDOM, ANXIETY AND PROACTIVE INHIBITION ARE ALL MEDIATING VARIABLES GENERALLY NOT UNDER ONE'S CONTROL THAT WILL INEVITABLY AFFECT ONE'S PERFORMANCE IN THIS REGARD.
THEREFORE, ENTER THIS REALM AT YOUR OWN WELL-INFORMED RISK.
If you wish to further investigate a similar, but not identical program, please contact my colleague and associate Jack Rourke at jackrourke.net and look into his newly formed group "Center for Psychic Living."
Image by Eleaf, courtesy of Creative Commons license.