CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON PSYCHIC SPY
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
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,"
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1/30/98 © 1997-1998 by Paul H. Smith. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1997-2008, Paul H. Smith. All rights reserved.