Mormon Remote Viewing

What My Seven Years as a Government Remote Viewer
Taught Me About the Gospel

by Paul H. Smith, 8/1997

(presented at the Washington, DC Sunstone Theological Symposium, April, 1997)

For years rumors floated around Washington that the Pentagon was using psychics to collect intelligence. Beginning in the early 1980s and continuing for more than a decade, investigative journalists Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta ran a number of columns with bits and pieces of information that they'd gleaned from confidential sources about these "psi spies." Periodically, others would surface with news alleging that the military consulted fortune tellers or crystal ball gazers to answer questions or solve intelligence problems that couldn't be handled with more conventional means. There was even one report that the Navy had tried communicating with one of its submarines using telepathy.

Then, in the Fall of 1995, the Central Intelligence Agency officially confirmed much of the story. A secret unit managed first by the Army and later by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and based at Ft. Meade, Maryland had for 17 years been using a so-called psychic skill known as "remote viewing"--or RV--to gather intelligence about threats to national security. Remote viewing was a sort of "disciplined clairvoyance," that allowed those trained in the skill to spy on targets closed to all other means of access. During its existence, the unit collected intelligence on a broad range of targets: strategic missile forces, political leaders, narcotics operations, research and development facilities, hostage situations, military weapons, secret military installations, technology developments; the list encompassed nearly every category of intelligence target.

In 1995 Congress directed the CIA take over the program from DIA--and the CIA didn't want it, even though during the '80s it had been one of the unit's most frequent patrons. The RV program, known in its final iteration by the code name "Star Gate," was cancelled by the CIA in mid-1995.

For seven of the seventeen years the intelligence unit existed, I was a member of it. I was trained to be a remote viewer, and ultimately performed over a thousand training and operational remote viewing missions. But this is only where the story begins.

What is Remote Viewing?

By definition, remote viewing is a skill that allows a human "remote viewer" to consciously obtain information from a location, person, or event inaccessible to that human due to distance, shielding, or time, and when no conventional means of communication links the "remote viewer" to the target. I often refer to it as "controlled clairvoyance," since one of the most important features of the skill is the self-control of mental "noise."

In (so-called) traditional ESP, one of the biggest problems has always been the competition one's own mind provides in the form of internally-created impressions, suggestions, and conflicting imaginings that obscure and distort valid "psychic signals" as they enter one's awareness. Remote viewers refer to this "noise" as "analytic overlay," or AOL.

There were two credible types of remote viewing done at Ft. Meade, each handling the AOL problem in different ways. The first of these, ERV, or "extended remote viewing," was based on traditional relaxation and meditative techniques, the goal of which was to suppress consciousness almost to the verge of sleep, and thereby encourage a deeper connection with the psychic "signal line" thus avoiding--hopefully--the mental noise.

The other approach was developed at the prestigious California think-tank SRI-International and was known as coordinate remote viewing. In CRV the viewer remains fully conscious, sitting upright at a table, and accesses the "psychic signal" through a series of strict protocols well equipped with techniques for expelling mental noise as one encounters it during a remote viewing session. Although impressive results were obtained with ERV, CRV produced quality information more consistently and predictably, and so became the predominant technique employed at Ft. Meade during the program's most pivotal years.

In the CRV process, which is the one I was trained in, the viewer is given an abstract coordinate. This is a number which acts as a "psychic address" to the target. It cues the viewer's subconscious to react--first by linking the viewer mentally to the target about which information is desired, then by facilitating the process through which actual information is obtained. At first, the data arrives in the form of very simple impressions which provide the overall concept of the target--it is a mountain; a building; a person; an event. Next, sensory data is perceived--colors, smells, sounds, textures. Dimensional concepts follow--tall, rounded, tapered, enclosed, rectangular. Then comes more meaty information--detailed ideas such as "governmental," "secret," "electronics," "aircraft related," "weapons systems," "missile." Further and yet more detailed information can be derived from these responses. Finally, if appropriate, the viewer can actually make a three-dimensional model of the target using clay or other materials. At this point, past and (to a limited degree) future events are accessible.

Is RV Effective?

Ultimately, the question always becomes, "Does it really work? Of course skeptics always say "No!" However, after some 25 years of experimental and operational remote viewing experience, the track record is sufficiently convincing for anyone willing to consider the evidence objectively. Unfortunately most of the operational data collected by the government remote viewing program still awaits declassification. However, there is enough information remaining outside the security envelope to provide a very convincing case.

First, there is a considerable body of data available among the various civilian researchers who have explored the phenomenon. SRI-International and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) both offer reports of successful RV research programs. Dr. Robert Jahn's book (cited below) records a number of compelling experiments. And Dr. Charles Honorton conducted a large group of experiments he referred to as "ganzfeld" research (somewhat of a cousin to remote viewing) that showed some very robust effects.

There has been some evidence that has leaked out of the government program as well. One report on the use of remote viewing in support of counter-drug operations in 1989-90 concluded that 35% of the information provided by remote viewers that was actually acted on (a large portion of RV-provided leads was not further investigated because of lack of Coast Guard and law enforcement resources) was of significant value and in several cases led to either recovery of contraband, apprehension of smugglers, or both. A higher percentage of information was deemed accurate but not useful for law enforcement purposes. Interestingly, RV as an intelligence source scored higher than any of the conventional intelligence methods also employed.

Additionally, a recently-published book by science writer Jim Schnabel, titled Remote Viewers, reveals many interesting remote viewing results as it unfolds a fairly accurate account of the government remote viewing program.

Still, one must remember that remote viewing isn't always successful. There are a few commercial practitioners of it who are currently claiming that they are "100%" successful. This is highly optimistic, and may be doing a disservice to the field (which already suffers credibility problems) by raising expectations to a level that real RV cannot fulfill.

Skeptical Responses

It is, of course, no surprise that many mainstream scientists object to the notion that remote viewing might be a real phenomenon. Over the years, many have complained that various experiments were not as "clean" as they might have been; that results were misinterpreted, were subject to judges' errors, or were erroneously reported; that fraud was involved in some way; or that the results were not exceptional enough to warrant a conclusion as controversial as that psi was the cause.

In some cases, all of these complaints have been justified. In many others, however, they have not been well-founded. Indeed, one of the most respected statisticians in the US recently concluded on the basis of her evaluation of dozens of parapsychology experiments around the world that the existence of a psi effect has been incontrovertibly proven. And a respected parapsychologist--Robert Jahn, dean emeritus of Princeton's School of Applied Engineering, as well as one of the nation's most prominent physicists--conducted a series of various psi experiments, then published impressive results that have yet to be successfully refuted by the skeptical community.

Yet the skeptics remain skeptical. The comment often heard from their ranks is that "exceptional claims can only be proved by exceptional results." In other words, the standards of proof to which conventional science is held are considered insufficient when dealing with the paranormal. This would be understandable and acceptable if it weren't for the fact that, as one prominent moderate skeptic has recently complained, the more rabid skeptics keep "moving back the goal posts" of acceptable proof as researchers present ever more convincing evidence of psi.

Of course, the preceding relates primarily to the research sphere. A very important point to understand here is that the majority of actual results from the nearly 25 years of operational remote viewing was never evaluated by any outside agency. In fact, the move to dismantle the program in 1995 was justified by a report from researchers who never even examined the bulging files of results produced by the government RV espionage program during its many years of operation.

How Remote Viewing Fits Within the LDS Worldview

Stories of governmental use of psychic phenomena can be quite titillating, as the immense media interest generated by the CIA's revelations at the end of 1995 shows. But there is a far deeper aspect to all this that is usually missed by the hype and hoopla. I believe one of the primary reasons skeptics continue so violently to reject evidence that humans indeed can function "psychically" is because of what that might mean for our current scientifically-based intellectual paradigm. Steeped in the tradition of the great Empiricist philosophers, and totally immersed in the materialist ideologies of this century's Logical Positivist thinkers, there is no room for anything that cannot be explained within our current model of the physical universe. Religion has felt the sting of this. So has parapsychology.

Materialists reject the notion of psychic functioning for what to them are very good reasons. If a replicable psychic effect can be achieved, and demonstrated essentially at will; and if no physically-based theory can account for that effect, then perhaps we do have reason to suspect that we may be "more than our physical bodies"; that there may indeed be something beyond this world, beyond this material universe--even beyond this life, contrary to what philosophy, abetted by science, has been preaching for a century and more. The floodgates might indeed open to what Carl Sagan disparagingly called the "Demon Haunted World," of spirituality and religion.

I believe that properly executed remote viewing is that replicable psychic effect that parapsychological researchers have hoped for and skeptics feared. This has profound implications for our culture and our view of the universe. I don't want to talk in detail here about RV's possible impact on science and the Western intellectual tradition, but only as they tangentially apply. Rather, I want to address how my experiences and the understandings I have come to have affected my understanding of the Gospel as taught by the LDS Church, and what I think the existence of this phenomenon may mean for the church.

First, you may know that for almost ten years now I have been affiliated with Sunstone. I've presented five or six papers, and been a respondent, chair, or panelist in perhaps a couple of dozen sessions at various Sunstone symposia during that time. I am under no illusions--mine is only a modest contribution, during which I consistently tried to sound a minor key in opposition to what I still perceive is an empiricist, materialist bias in the fabric of these symposia.

Unbeknownst to any but a few of my intimates, nearly everything I have presented during my involvement with Sunstone has been colored by my experience with remote viewing. My very first paper, presented in Salt Lake in 1988, was "Mormonism and the Hundredth Monkey: LDS Doctrine in Light of Rupert Sheldrake's Hypothesis of Formative Causation." I'm not going to get into the content of it here, except to say that Sheldrake proposes a model that could well establish a link between the explanations of materialist science and what I have come to perceive as the spiritual realities beyond the constraints of the physical universe. Sheldrake's hypothesis finds great serendipity with the teachings of the Restored Gospel.

A second Sunstone paper was "Mormonism and the New Age," in which I treated a number of topics relating to the metaphysical leanings of the New Age movement and what connections and dissonances there might be with the LDS Church. Much of my own model reconciling Mormonism and parapsychology I incorporated in that presentation.

My "Illusions of Autocracy: Why the LDS Church isn't as Dictatorial as it Looks but What Makes it Sometimes Seem That Way," explored how, when we think we see failings and weaknesses in the "organizational" church, the weaknesses we encounter are often really those either in the very human personalities of our leaders, or our own, or sometimes both. The insights I brought out in that presentation were gleaned from my time as recruiting and assessment officer for the RV unit. Using some of the assessment tools--particularly the Myers-Briggs personality profile instrument--I gained a whole new perspective of the importance of individual personalities in how organizations function, dysfunction, and are perceived by those within and without them.

Three other papers, "War in Heaven, War on Earth," "Secret, Yes; But Sacred, Too: Ambivalent Attitudes Toward the Temple," and especially "Mormonism Seduced: The Materialist Worldview and the LDS Church" were heavily influenced by my realization that there was far more to reality than what our modern world has allowed itself to believe exists within the confines of physical existence. And I talked about the seduction of Mormon intellectuals by that beckoning mirage.

In 1988 I had already been a remote viewer for five years. But because of government secrecy requirements, I was forbidden to speak directly of it on pain of prosecution, loss of career, and possible confinement. Now, in a sense coming full circle with this paper, I can talk relatively freely about a body of experiences that has had a profound effect on my life, and I believe will eventually have a profound effect on the world in which we all live. Let me now explain how I think this thing known as remote viewing, and in a larger sense, psychic functioning, fits in with the doctrines of the LDS Church.

As we learn from LDS teachings, our lives did not start with mortal birth, contrary to what many other religions believe. Rather, we lived in a "pre-existence" as spirits. Spirits, according to the missionary discussions I learned when I was on my mission, could speak without talking, could cross distances without walking, and could presumably through some intangible way know things about places other than where they were--all because they had as yet no physical bodies. By what we learn from the scriptures and writings of prominent early church leaders, these notions seem to be accurate.

When we come into this existence, our spirits in some way become bonded to/with our bodies. We also pass through a "veil," which prevents us from knowing anything about the spirit world from which we came. However, though we may have lost awareness of our celestial origins, it says nowhere that we lost our previously-held spiritual abilities. At most, it seems to me, we may have forgotten them along with everything else when we "came through the veil." So I suspect that whenever a person develops some sort of "psychic" skill, he or she is just "remembering"--usually in rather imperfect form--spiritual abilities and skills they have always possessed, but only fleetingly and vaguely recall while in mortality. In this case, remote viewing may indeed be an attempt at "spiritual seeing" filtered through the heavy screen--"a glass darkly"--of our physical mental processes.

This leads to some interesting thoughts regarding spirits and bodies together being the souls of men/women/humans. One of the things we are taught is that part of our mission here on earth as mortals is to learn to allow our spirits to rule our bodies. We usually take this to mean that we are to control our physical appetites by keeping them in line with God's commandments. But maybe this is just the first, elementary step; maybe we also are to learn eventually how to function spiritually while still in our bodies, as both God and Jesus Christ seem able to do. I doubt gaining this full functionality is within the grasp of any of us in mortality. But perhaps some of us make a start on it while we are here.

But there is also the issue as to "what is the source" of the information that one receives while remote viewing. Some more conservative Mormons are convinced that there are only two possible sources--God and Satan. Since this "psychic" stuff doesn't seem to be coming from any source authorized by God, it must therefore come from Satan. But I believe otherwise. We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants that the "power is in us" to do much good without being directly moved upon by God, just as we can conceive and perform evil acts all on our own accord without necessarily being influenced by Satan.

We Mormons also believe--contrary to any other Christian religion--that our ultimate existence is not dependent on God--we existed as intelligences before we were spirits, and these intelligences were "coeval" with Him--some fundamental essence of each of us has been around just as long as God has. He clearly has much more power and glory than do we, yet we ultimately exist independent of Him; the very fact that we have this necessary existence means that we have some power, however minuscule, that is our own. And I strongly suspect that being subsequently created as spirits, then acquiring physical bodies has augmented that power somewhat. So, we are indeed agents unto ourselves; and we must decide how we will use our agency and what power there is that comes with it. Just as we can use our physical strength either to assault or to rescue someone, I think we have these spiritual powers which we may also choose to use for good or ill.

One obvious question is how the Holy Ghost fits into this. For one thing, I think much that we attribute directly to the Holy Ghost is actually the Spirit working through our own resources to help us. I believe, for example, that we possess much unconscious power to heal our own bodies. The Holy Ghost is invoked through prayer and priesthood blessings, perhaps not always to heal us directly, but rather to unlock the power we ourselves have below the level of our temporal awareness, in effect guiding our own spirits as participants themselves in the healing process.

I suspect further that much of inspiration and outright revelation we receive in our lives is not new information poured directly into our minds by the Holy Ghost, but rather ideas to which we have instead been guided, and about which we must form the correct conclusions. Or they are cognitions to which we have been helped when the Spirit has prompted us to associate knowledge we already possessed in ways may not otherwise have occurred to us, but which nevertheless provide us a profound answer to questions with which we might be struggling.

Finally, I suspect that the same pathways through which a remote viewer gains information are those also used by the Holy Ghost. The difference is expressed by an analogy I often use. Let's imagine these "inspirational channels" are a set of railroad tracks used both by the local commuter lines as well as the sleek transcontinental Amtrak express. The commuter trains are our own halting efforts to develop such things as remote viewing skills; the transcontinental express represents inspiration from the Holy Ghost, coming from a much more distant--and profound--source.


I do not claim to be the recipient of more inspiration or revelation for myself or my stewardships than any other member of the church. But I think I do understand the process much better than I would have had I not had my experiences with remote viewing. First, I have no longer any doubt that inspiration and revelation can and do occur, and that the information and insight they convey originates from outside our individual selves. In an era in which the secular world explains such things away as mere rumblings from one's subconscious or as the brain's right hemisphere whispering to the left, this insight is of no small consequence.

Second, I recognize the subtlety of the "spiritual signal." There is a qualitative difference between it and our typical mental processes, but many times it is so rarified and nuanced that, if one is not practiced in the art of recognizing it, it is easily lost amongst our many other thoughts and imaginings. "Still small voice" may strike us as a nicely poetic turn of phrase--but it also profoundly captures the precise way in which the Spirit "speaks" to us. Our teachers and church leaders are not exaggerating when they continually urge upon us the need to "listen" for that still small voice, and to continually work at increasing our receptivity to it and our ability to identify when we are being spoken to.

This leads directly to my third point--the problem of signal-to-noise ratio. This is a term that remote viewing theory borrows from radio propagation, but it has precise correlation to the principle of revelation. I earlier mentioned analytic overlay, or AOL. This is only one of a number of sources of "mental noise" that can be overwhelming to the beginning remote viewer. Physical "inclemencies," as viewers call them, imaginative, emotional, and--believe it or not--even telepathic overlays exist. In fact, the whole structured process of remote viewing was developed primarily as a means of bringing the psychic signal-to-noise ratio under control, allowing valid target-related information to be extracted from the background static. Without this structure, no remote viewer would function any more reliably than the 20% effectiveness that even the best so-called "natural" psychics seem able to muster.

All of us run into these same problems in determining if we are perceiving the "still small voice," or instead merely the whinings of our own egos, the urges of our own wants and desires, or the overlay of our own imaginations. Yet just as one can master the structured discipline of remote viewing to allow one to more confidently separate signal "wheat" from noise "chaff," we can develop our own spiritual discipline that can help us separate revelatory signal from our own subjective noise.

Prophecy, Free Will, and the Foreknowledge of God

Like any other typical day, on Friday, May 15, 1987 I was tasked to do a remote viewing session. Unbeknownst to me, my mission that day was to be an "open search"--essentially a wild-card search, the intent of which was best expressed by "report on whatever the most important thing is that we should know right now." My monitor that day gave me the coordinates, then sat back to see what might happen.

In the course of the session I described a warship, steaming peacefully at night in a constricted body of water, bordered on at least three sides by immense stretches of flat, sandy terrain. Most of the people aboard the ship were asleep. I next perceived an aircraft to the north heading away from land in the general direction of the vessel. At a certain point, the aircraft released something long, thin, and tubular, with stubby wings. This object emitted a guttural buzzing or roaring sound, and flew in an erratic fashion until it and the warship "came together." The vessel's structure sagged and buckled, and I perceived smoke, fire hoses, as well as people screaming, yelling, and choking.

My impressions about the aircraft were that it was directed by a group of people located in a third-world sort of city far inland, in a broad, sandy area. The city consisted largely of flat-roofed, masonry structures (I even had the impression of domestic animals in the streets). The people directing the aircraft were military, but rather unprofessional, with a militia-like attitude. They wore tan uniforms, and important colors to them included black and green.

The entire episode with the aircraft seemed to be a game of "chicken" that had gone somewhat awry. I perceived many more details that I won't take space for here. My monitor, expecting something else, eventually ended the session. "I guess you're just off today," he said. "But that's okay--nobody can be on all the time." We went home for the weekend.

Then Monday morning, May 18, 1987 arrived. The headlines of that morning's Washington Post read: "Iraqi Missile Sets U.S. Frigate Ablaze, Causing Casualties." The night before, the U.S.S. Stark, patrolling in the Persian Gulf, had been struck by an Exocet anti-ship missile fired by an Iraqi fighter-bomber. As details of the incident emerged, it became more and more obvious that I had described this event in great detail, two days before it actually happened. A few years later, I obtained a copy of the Navy's final report on the Stark incident, and discovered that my account had indeed captured exactly what had happened--to include details that were not covered in the news reports at the time.

This session on the Stark has a number of implications for LDS doctrine. The first is that, despite current scholarly beliefs to the contrary, prophecy is a reality. If it is true that I, an otherwise ordinary person just doing my job in a government psychic espionage unit, could describe the future so specifically, how could anyone deny that a prophet--Isaiah, Abraham, Joseph Smith--might not be able to do the same and more when directly influenced by God?

As only one example--for some time now, one of the arguments in biblical criticism for there being more than one author of the book of Isaiah is that "nobody could possibly know more than two hundred years in the past" that certain events and calamities would occur in the future. Therefore, a second, later "Isaiah" must have written the "prophecies" into the book retroactively. While no one has yet been able to test if remote viewers can accurately describe events that far in the future, the fact that real events happening in the future can be described accurately at all casts such scholarly assumptions into grave doubt.

But there are other interesting implications as well, particularly involving free will and God's foreknowledge of the future. Unlike the past, which has already happened and is fixed in time and space (and which can with fair precision and consistency be accessed by remote viewers), the future is not. It hasn't, after all, happened yet. In fact, even what final course the future may take has not been resolved. Every event in the world, every happenstance, every decision made affects the direction the future may take. I call these points where the future could branch off in any one of two or more directions a decision node.

Whenever we encounter one of these decision nodes (and it happens frequently--virtually every moment we live), how the decision is resolved determines what path the future timeline takes. Even seemingly tiny choices and decisions can have amplified consequences down the road. Out there in the unresolved future, there is a myriad of possible futures, "existing" side by side. Right now, any one of them is just as likely as any other. But as decision nodes are met and resolved, smaller sets of possible futures remain possible, while at the same time thousands and millions are "turned off"--are no longer realizable.

When one remote views, or otherwise tries to psychically predict the future, all possible futures beyond crucial decision nodes are equally likely. They therefore have equal psychic "weight." A remote viewer might describe any one of them, and be perfectly accurate at that time, since all possible futures at that remove have the same likelihood of occurring. However, due to the uncertainty in which decision nodes might be resolved, at some later point the possible future described by the remote viewer might be among those "turned off." The scenario predicted by the viewer doesn't materialize, and he/she appears to have been "wrong."

What this means is that, even though it is possible to access the future psychically, it can never be reliably done--at least by humans. My session on the Stark was a fortuitous one. I either luckily picked the right alternative future, or so many decision nodes led to it that it would have been hard to find one that didn't end up there. It also didn't hurt that the event was only a little over two days into the future--the "closer in" one gets, the fewer possible futures will be able to develop, and the easier it will be to get the correct one. A dozen papers could be written on all the implications for our understanding of time and the future that develop from precognitive remote viewing. But for now, I'll limit myself to the bearing this may have on agency and free will.

In Mormon theology, there is a thus-far unresolved debate as to how, if God "knows everything," we can still have real choices. If God knows how everything will turn out, is that not the same as saying all actions have already been determined? There has been an (I believe) unsatisfactory attempt to claim that God can know how everything will turn out, while we must still go through the motions to prove to ourselves that we will make the choices that God knows we will. As far as I'm concerned, this does nothing to resolve the paradox between God knowing everything and us having true agency.

But what if this notion of possible futures turns out to be correct? It would seem to provide a resolution that reconciles both God's omniscience and our agency. God could know every nuance of the ever-more intricately braided and diverging sets of possible futures from now until the end of our physical universe (and even beyond), but He could be waiting to see, just like the rest of us, which possible futures are activated by our good, bad, and neutral choices, and which futures are eliminated. God would, indeed, in one sense know absolutely everything. Yet even at that, his knowledge would be limited in one respect: He would not have certainty in the one area essential to preserving our precious agency: How we are going to choose when we encounter decision nodes.

As far as predicting our futures, God would of course still be powerful. Knowing all the possible futures, and knowing all the potential consequences of each choice as it reverberates down through the corridors of the future, He can continue to advise us of what will transpire as a consequence of various decisions and actions. But note how often prophecies are couched in subjunctive terms: Nineveh will be destroyed if its inhabitants fail to repent. Great calamities will befall the inhabitants of the Americas if they fail to keep the commandments. By their very phraseology, such prophecies imply that the future is not fixed. Those prophecies that are not stated conditionally often merely describe the certain consequences of acts already committed by rulers and peoples against the counsel of God and His prophets.

Using this model, it does indeed seem possible to reconcile God's all-knowingness with the principle of our individual agency.


Let me now return to a more concrete subject--materialism. As mentioned before, I believe there is an unfortunate tendency in many Sunstone presentations to fall prey to the rampant mechanistic, reductionist paradigm that is the bedrock of modern academia and science (and which has put religion to rout). But the problem is not peculiar only to Sunstone. As I pointed out in my materialism paper, even many in the institutional church have to a degree succumbed to materialism's wiles. This is so for two reasons: Our culture is so thoroughly suffused with materialist attitudes, it is impossible to escape infection altogether. But even more than that, the reductionist paradigm has been so unsurpassingly successful in explaining physical phenomena, that we are often in danger of trusting more in science/government/medicine/etc., than we do in God.

One of my philosophy professors was recently trying to explain why he was convinced that there will eventually be a materialist model explaining consciousness exclusively in terms of electro-chemical brain processes (perhaps many of you thought it already has been--but such is far from being the case), thus destroying once and for all the notion that there was any sort of extra-physical element, such as spirit or mind, to account for our nature as sentient beings. Reductionist science, my professor proclaimed, has been astoundingly successful in answering all the riddles of the physical universe. So many times, he declared, things that were thought to be beyond physical explanation, or only explainable in spiritual terms, have ultimately been demonstrated to be functions of matter and physical law.

What my professor, and many more like him are in deep denial of, is that science only explains those things it can explain. Like Procrustes, it cuts off and throws away anything that doesn't fit, often declaring it non-existent. Later during that same class, my professor was asked by another student why science hadn't yet managed to fully explain away and put to rest such phenomena as UFOs and parapsychology. The professor's answer was that such things were "just too hard" for science to do--it couldn't get a grip on them because, even assuming they had any reality at all, they likely could not be explained in terms that would make sense to science. It therefore made no sense for scientists to even bother investigating them.

His response reminded me of the joke about a man who is on his hands and knees under a street lamp late one night looking for a lost contact lens. A passerby asks him where he lost the lens. From the circle of light under the lamp he points off into the shadows. "Well then," asks the passerby, "why are you looking here?"

"Because this is where the light is!"

To a great degree, we inherited this attitude from the logical positivist philosophy of the 1920s through 1950s. The logical positivists advocated the verifiability principle, which in simple terms says that anything that cannot be verified by direct observation or by instruments, must be rejected as nonsense. Though this principle eventually fell under its own weight, the materialist tradition it supported remains basic to today's academic culture, and defines the narrow constraints of evidence that any "-ology" may accept. This tradition exercises great influence on all of us, who often without realizing it come to feel that the only valid yardstick to use in assessing the church is one forged from the brittle steel of empirical reductionism.

Don't mistake me. I value the keen-edged tools that the scientific method and rational thought represent. They have been and continue to be indispensable in advancing our understanding of and knowledge about the world. They are also extremely useful in combating ignorance, prejudice, and stupidity--occasionally even where the church is concerned. The problem arises when we begin to accept the scientific approach almost as a substitute for religion, and lose sight of the fact that science's instruments and methods are, when you get right down to it, just more tools crafted my mere human hands.

And this is where my experience with remote viewing enters this part of the discussion. Speaking purely objectively now, the fact that a replicable psychic effect exists, unexplainable from a materialist perspective, allows us to again reasonably consider the proposition that there is more to the universe than just physical existence. No longer can we necessarily rule out the possibility of prophecy. No longer can we reject outright the possibility of inspiration and revelation; nor can we necessarily assume that God is merely a myth created by superstitious ancestors to account for things we now can successfully explain through science--because now we know there are things that can't be thus explained by science. No longer can we consider it outside the realm of possibility that some higher being can indeed communicate with representatives here on earth. Of course, remote viewing doesn't prove God's existence, nor the certainty of an afterlife. It only proves that such things are possible--an option that materialist science has been doing its best to reject for much too long. While we still need faith and prayer to solicit spiritual guidance, at least faith can be considered a reasonable thing to have.


I must remind you--most of this is purely my own speculation and conjecture based on my own experiences. I do not intend to present it in any way that would imply any of it to be official doctrine--either of church or of science. Still, it makes sense to me, and I feel I've personally had some confirmation of its truth. But ultimately you must form your own opinion and seek your own guidance.

I am, of course, always worried that someone will latch onto remote viewing as some sort of end in itself--something to get religious about, or even something to be turned into a religion--in the process ignoring the commandments and great truths of the gospel. I try to discourage anybody from making RV out to be more than it is. But it is still something, even if apart from its uses in intelligence and a few other specialized applications it presently has not gone much beyond being a parlor game.

It is not the practical uses of remote viewing that I think are important, so much as its implications. I may be wrong in this belief--but I doubt I am: remote viewing will yet prove to have a vital impact on how we in our present culture think about ourselves and about the universe. And I think, from a gospel perspective, it will be good.

1/30/98  © 1997-1998 by Paul H. Smith. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1997-2008, Paul H. Smith. All rights reserved.