Palo Alto Weekly

- February 22, 2013

Mind over matter

A Palo Alto physicist presents his view of extrasensory perception

by Phyllis Filiberti Butler

"The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities" by Russell Targ; Quest Books, Wheaton. Ill.; 306 pages; $20

"If facts alone can convince a skeptical investigator of the reality of ESP, this book should do it." So declares Palo Alto physicist Russell Targ, author of this book — and eight others on the fascinating subject of mind, matter and paranormal abilities. As Targ points out, these abilities have many names: Psi, metaphysics, clairvoyance, and most familiar, extrasensory perception — ESP, which he assures us is so easy anyone can do it ... with a little training.

"What's new is that data for ESP is 10 times stronger than the (National Institutes of Health) NIH's evidence of aspirin's effect on heart attacks," he says regarding his latest book.

Peninsula people interested in parapsychology know Targ's Remote Viewing demonstrations at Stanford and workshops at East West Bookshop and for the Foundation for Mind-Being Research wherein he describes the scientific and spiritual implications of psychic abilities. Here he introduces such great men as Einstein, Wittgenstein and, more recently, John Stewart Bell whose theorem confirms nonlocal connectivity, and their heady assertions of space, time and consciousness. In total, the book presents a summary of the best evidence for extrasensory perception, precognition, intuitive diagnosis and spiritual healing.

Targ is a Columbia University-trained physicist who was co-founder of a secret psychic research program at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to investigate psychic abilities, which was named remote viewing, a term coined by Targ's associate Ingo Swann. Their research was necessarily "secret" because it was supported by the CIA during the Cold War. Illustrations of Swann and his remote "views" are included in this exhaustively thorough volume.

Although there are dozens of researchers in parapsychology, Targ has chosen to focus on research with which he has a direct connection with the findings. His use of the word proof is explained by Targ, as well as by philosopher and author Stephen A. Schwartz in a thoughtful foreword that notes the materialist arguments against such proof regarding a recent convincing ESP study by Cornell University psychology professor Daryl Bem.

Schwartz writes that opposition to the reality of ESP is often against its implications, not the quality of its evidence, which require a new world view. One critic declared that if ESP were true then "all the bases underlying contemporary science would be toppled." Exactly.

He quotes Nobel laureate Max Planck: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light: but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

In his introduction, Targ describes his New York background in experimental physics, psychology and, as a young man, stage magic — and eventually mental magic and ESP. After coming to California to work with Sylvania Electric Company, he helped start the largest laser lab on the West Coast. In parallel he soon created the Parapsychology Research Group, which led to his work as a cofounder of the ESP research program at SRI in Menlo Park. The experiments they conducted there, he explains, routinely presented results that could have happened by chance less than once in a million. Targ describes four types of experiments:

1. Remote Viewing, in which a person describes mental impressions of randomly chosen distant places and events, independent of space and time. Modern physics would describe such phenomena as nonlocal, which is explained, as is the intriguing concept of entanglement. In one example, Targ accurately sketched a traveling colleague's unknown location in an airport in San Andres, Colombia. In another remote viewing, also while sitting in the shielded SRI lab, so-called Psychic Policeman Pat Price drew to scale a Soviet weapons factory in Siberia with great accuracy later confirmed by satellite photography.

2. Distant Mental Influence, where the thoughts of the experimenter can positively or negatively affect the physiology (heart rate, skin resistance, etc.) of a distant person.

3. The Ganzfeld, German for whole field isolation, a system of telepathy where someone in a state of sensory isolation accurately describes the visual experiences or mental impressions of a friend watching video clips in another place. Said to be extraordinarily successful.

4. Feeling the Future, precognition and retrocausality, showing that the future can affect the past in surprising ways. That is, the elephant you see on television in the morning can be the cause of your having dreamed about elephants the previous night.

Targ has a poetic bent and starts his book with a William Blake quotation:

If the doors of perception were cleansed,

Everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up,

till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.

He ends with a quote by the great physicist Erwin Schrodinger: "Consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown. There is only one thing, and that which seems to be a plurality is simply a series of different aspects of that one thing ..."

In between, the chapters present evidence for survival after death; explain how ESP works based on the Buddhist/Hindu view of ourselves as nonlocal, eternal awareness; discuss the ethics of exercising psychic abilities; introduce us to a corps of psychic stars; and show us how to explore ESP ourselves.

"I am convinced," Targ writes, "that most people can learn to move from their ordinary mind to one not obstructed by conventional barriers of space and time. Who would not want to try that?"

Finally "and perhaps most important," says Targ, "there is a chapter explaining how one can practice remote viewing, just as we did in the successful Stanford Research Institute program."

Russell Targ will be presenting ESP workshops on the Italian island of Sardinia in April and with Deepak Chopra at La Costa in Southern California in August.

Phyllis Butler is an author, teacher and editor of books on time, place and spirituality. She can be emailed at butler-phyllis@att.net.

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