The State of the Art
On 30 November and 1 December 1983 a symposium was held in Leesburg, Virginia, on ‘Applications of Anomalous Phenomena’. It was organized by Kaman Tempo, a division of the Kaman Sciences ‘think-tank’ in Santa Barbara, California, and its stated purpose was ‘to provide a venue where outside-of-government researchers could present government managers and scientists with details of their research and an assessment of the potential of applications of this research’. There were nineteen speakers, several of them heads of major university departments, and the guests were described as ‘senior scientists and civilian and military managers’. No guest list was published.
In all countries meetings are frequently held at which scientists brief members of governments and intelligence communities on recent developments in their fields. This one was somewhat unusual. Its purpose, in the plain language of the host, Dr Scott Jones of Kaman Tempo, was: ‘to bring a group of senior researchers to Washington to share their assessments of where we are in 1983 in ability to apply psychic phenomena, and what they project the 1990 position to be’.
Subjects discussed ranged from telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis to ‘human/equipment interaction systems’ (i.e. people affecting computers) and ‘the continuity of life’. There was also a discussion of the military applications of ‘anomalous phenomena’. To fly nineteen people from all parts of the country and put them up for two or three days must have cost a good deal, and it should be noted that they were not asked to discuss the possible existence of psychic phenomena, but to describe what was being done with them.
No mention was made of Geller in the published Proceedings of the Leesburg symposium, but there was plenty of discussion of almost everything he has ever claimed to do, from bending spoons and reading minds to finding objects and missing persons, locating natural resources and making computers go wrong. I will summarize it here in two sections:
1 Anomalous mental phenomena: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and remote sensing (dowsing).
2 Anomalous physical phenomena: psychokinesis, or interactions between mind and matter on all levels from the microscopic to the macroscopic.
The first type of mental phenomena discussed was clairvoyance, or ‘remote viewing’ as they prefer to call it at SRI International, where Project Scanate got under way on 29 May 1973. The experimenters on that occasion were Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ, the two laser physicists who had begun to look into anomalous matters the previous year with Uri Geller. Their subject was a New Yorker named Ingo Swann, an artist and writer by profession who was widely read in parapsychology and had plenty of ideas of his own as to how his abilities should be tested. He deserves the credit for launching Project Scanate in the first place, for it was his idea to try to obtain useful information at long distance – any distance – with nothing more to go on than the geographical co-ordinates of the site. By scanning those co-ordinates (hence the word Scanate) he hoped to provide a description more detailed than any available map of the site in question would show.
Swann did not go into a trance, beat drums, or jump into an isolation tank. He simply made himself comfortable, lit a cigar, took a sip of coffee and began to reel off very precise descriptions of locations thousands of miles away about which Puthoff and Targ knew nothing except their exact longitude and latitude. One of these, of which Swann drew an accurate map, was the remote Pacific island of Kerguelen, site of what is officially described as a weather research centre. It is in fact the site of a Soviet missile-tracking installation.
The co-ordinates for Project Scanate, in which six other subjects later took part, were provided by a source identified by reporter Ron McRae as a case officer from the Central Intelligence Agency who had been assigned to check out the psychic scene. In his book Mind Wars (1984), McRae describes how the agent later took part himself in a Scanate test as a subject, and found his impressions to be as accurate as those of Swann and the others. His reaction, after three successful runs, was: ‘My God, it really works!’
More than a hundred tests were carried out during the life of Project Scanate, which ran for two years. Targets chosen by the CIA, in association with the National Security Agency, included a number of very sensitive military locations in the Soviet Union. Descriptions of these provided by Scanate subjects were later confirmed, in some cases very precisely, by satellite observations. Other targets selected were nearer home: one was an installation in the Washington area of which the subject provided not only a general description, but such fine details as contents of locked file cabinets.
Summarizing the SRI research in remote viewing, Puthoff pointed out that several other laboratory teams had successfully replicated it, notably the Princeton University group headed by Dr Robert G. Jahn, dean of its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He had been particularly successful in what he described as ‘precognitive remote perception’.
‘The percipient’, Jahn explained, ‘performs his perception and fills out his check sheet hours, and in some cases even days, before the target is visited by the agent – indeed, in most cases, before the target has even been selected.’ What passed through the minds of some of the military members of his audience when he told them that has not been recorded.
There have been some intriguing spin-offs from the work at SRI and Princeton. One is that it has been found that almost anybody can do remote viewing, and another is that it is possible to get better at it, like most other things, by practising and learning to avoid simple mistakes. The most common of these is trying too hard to interpret what is picked up by the viewer in the form of shapes. As Puthoff explained during his presentation: ‘A viewer will say, “I see one of those things that, you know, flies around and has got wings, but isn’t a bird. It comes out of a worm, but I can’t think of the name of it.”‘ Told it sounds rather like a butterfly, the viewer agrees at once.
There are some striking similarities between the findings of the remote viewing researchers and those of the scientists who pioneered the study of the workings of our two brain hemispheres. Roger Sperry, who won a Nobel Prize for his split-brain research, found that when people had their brain hemispheres forcibly separated in order to suppress major afflictions of epilepsy, their two brain-halves responded to external information in quite different ways. Using only their left hemispheres, they could describe things in words, but they could not identify them by shape or touch. Using only their right hemispheres, they could recognize shapes and general impressions, but could not put names to them.
It is quite wrong to assume, as some have, that normal people with intact brains make use of one half independently of the other. Our brains are designed to operate as single integrated entities. All the same, it is common experience that we all have two modes of thinking, one logical and analytical, the other intuitive. In my book If This Be Magic (1985) I suggested calling them left-mind and right-mind modes for convenience, and pointed out that while the normal brain must make full use of both, there are times when one is a hindrance rather than a help. We often feel our intuitions contradicting our sense of logic, for example. There are also times when we suppress an intuition (or, more often, somebody else’s intuition), act logically, and find we have made a mistake and that it was the intuitive channel, or right mind, that picked up the correct information.
This is precisely what has been found to happen again and again during remote viewing experiments. Some viewers could perceive targets with remarkable accuracy, but they would describe them in words or on paper quite wrongly because of what Ingo Swann called ‘analytical overlay’, or what I would call left-mind swamping of the right-mind channel.
One way round this problem is to use more than one viewer at a time, and this was the approach developed by Stephan Schwartz and his Mobius Group, based in Los Angeles. He assembled a team of clairvoyants of widely differing backgrounds, including a photographer, an investment banker, a retired hunting guide and a house wife, and he soon found that two brains were better than one in the psychic detection business, while three were better still. On some projects he used as many as eleven.
He described one of his most successful assignments at the Leesburg symposium. He had been approached by a district attorney from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to see if he could help on a case of a missing fourteen-year-old girl. He was given a photograph of the girl, but no further information except that she had disappeared. Having a daughter of his own of the same age, Schwartz felt strongly motivated to help, but was only able to reach two of his pool of clairvoyants on this occasion.
Both of them announced that the girl was dead. One said that she had been struck on the head, the other that she had been suffocated. Both thought that there had been a sexual assault, and both agreed that the killer was a man known to the girl. All of these could be said to be reasonable guesses for a case of this kind. However, the two Mobius psychics went on to build up a picture of events that was detailed enough to persuade the police to search the area they described.
‘The description of the area where the body was found’, Schwartz reported, ‘was perfect. So they found the body.’
A man was later tried and convicted. He had been under suspicion, but without a body there was little the police could do. With the help of Schwartz’s team, which the police were good enough to acknowledge in writing, they found the body and solved the case. The girl, incidentally, had been both struck on the head and suffocated.
Next to describe progress in the field of psychic detection was Dr Karlis Osis, research director of the American Society for Psychical Research in New York. While Uri Geller was working on the Son of Sam case, as he has described in this book, Osis was doing the same independently using a group of six. It was one of his most frustrating cases, for five of the group produced no useful information at all, while the sixth provided specific details that, looked at with hindsight, could have led to an early arrest if they had been co-ordinated with Geller’s information and acted upon. She stated that the killer was an employee of a certain post office, and even provided part of his car licence-plate number.
Osis tried to follow up the post office lead, but was denied access to staff records. Yet he remained optimistic about the potential application of psychic sensing to the detection of criminals.
‘We know what to do, which hypotheses to test, how to optimize procedures, select and train talented persons, and what equipment and software are necessary to facilitate our efforts,’ he told his audience at Leesburg. ‘When methods of applying ESP become operational, there will be no walls for the criminals to hide behind.’ All that was now needed, he concluded, was ‘a will to proceed’.
I came across one example of such a will myself at about this time. One day, I was doing some reading in the library of the Society for Psychical Research in London when a young woman police cadet turned up, asking if we could provide her with source material for her research project: the use of psychics in police work. I hope that, by now, all police college libraries have a copy of W. S. Hibbard and R. W. Worring’s Psychic Criminology: an operations manual for using psychics in criminal investigations, published in 1982 by Charles C. Thomas of Springfield, Illinois.
I have also met a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, together with a lady who, he assured me, had been able to provide him with accurate and useful information concerning major crimes, including murder. She had never solved a case on her own, he added, but he reckoned that psychics had a useful part to play as just one of several types of specialist who can contribute to the solution of crimes.
A will to proceed is to be found here and there.
The ‘civilian and military managers’ who spent the weekend at Leesburg must have concluded that anomalous phenomena of the mental kind were not only quite common and potentially very useful, but not all that difficult to induce. If any of them went on to look into the history of research in telepathy and clairvoyance, they would have found no shortage of textbooks in the libraries in which all the basic rules are spelled out in plain language. Upton Sinclair’s Mental Radio (1930) and Rene Warcollier’s Mind to Mind (1948) would have provided enough teaching material for a trial course in applied telepathy for civil or military purposes. This, they may have decided, is something we can work with.
Psychokinesis, or anomalous physical phenomena, is an altogether different matter. Nobody is quite sure what all the rules are, and its unpredictable nature has made it something that many scientists would rather not allow into their well-ordered laboratories, as the following example illustrates.
Uri Geller was not the first person in whose presence expensive equipment began to act strangely on the SRI premises. That honour belongs to Ingo Swann, and the experiment in which he was involved was more scientifically acceptable than the incident with Geller and the DARPA computer, because Swann did exactly what he was asked to do. The scene was the basement of the Varian Physics Building at Stanford University (of which SRI International is now independent) and the scientist in charge of the experiment was Harold Puthoff. It was June 1972, and Russell Targ had not yet joined him for the Geller research.
The first thing Puthoff asked Swann to do was to pit his wits against a machine that had been designed specifically to be impervious to external influences of any kind except those it was supposed to measure: extremely weak magnetic fields. It was known as a Squid, or superconducting magnetometer, and it was buried under the concrete floor. Swann’s own version of what happened was given at a lecture to the Society for Psychical Research in London in April 1978, and is hitherto unpublished. It is not only very amusing, but it gives a good idea of the psychological conditions needed for successful experiments in psychokinesis. It also gives some idea of the problems these tend to cause.
When Swann learned that the thing he was supposed to influence was out of sight under a slab of concrete, he felt he had been tricked. His first impulse was to thump Puthoff in the face and fly home to New York. Then he thought: If it doesn’t work, I’m finished, but if it does, it might be interesting. So, having worked himself into ‘a real fizz’, as he put it, he asked icily what he had to do.
‘Float down there and interfere with the magnetic field,’ said Puthoff, explaining that this would show up on the chart recorder that had already been running normally for an hour, showing a steady trace on the paper.
Swann set to work. Earlier, he had demonstrated his ability to travel ‘out of the body’ in a series of well-observed experiments in New York, but this was the first time he had been asked to perform physical work on one of his astral trips.
‘I don’t know what I did,’ he said, ‘except that I knew I was going to get these guys if it was the last thing I did.’ He then startled the three scientists present, who included the designer of the Squid, by announcing that he could actually see the workings of the instrument. He promptly made a sketch to prove it.
‘Oh my God,’ said one of the scientists. ‘That’s the thing I just took out a patent on. Nobody is supposed to know about that.’ Then followed a period in which ‘the frequency of the oscillation doubled for about thirty seconds’, as Puthoff described it. This is plainly visible on the chart recording published in Mind-Reach, the section in question being signed by Swann, Puthoff and physicist Dr Martin J. Lee.
There was some nervous laughter. Swann asked if he had done anything convincing.
‘Well, yes,’ he was told. ‘If you can do it again.’ Psychics are always being told this, and it understandably annoys them.
‘Let’s get this straight,’ said Swann through clenched teeth. ‘If I do it again, you’ll have to say I really did it?’
The designer of the Squid, Dr Arthur Hebard, suggested that there might be something wrong with his machine, but agreed he would be impressed if Swann could stop the signal altogether.
Five seconds or so later either the magnetometer or the chart recorder – it was not possible to establish which – entered a period of mechanical brain-death that lasted for three-quarters of a minute. Instead of moving up and down in a steady and symmetrical sine-wave pattern, the recorder’s pen ran in a straight line. One of the observers went into a compulsive nervous laugh, and Swann himself began to giggle. ‘I knew I had them,’ he recalled.
All ‘they’ wanted to know, though was: could he do it again?
With commendable patience, Swann tried but failed. ‘I’d achieved what I wanted,’ he said, ‘which was to teach them a lesson.’ Having done so, he found his psychic powers had ‘receded’ from him. He remarked that his best results were always obtained when he was trying to get his own back on his investigators.
Puthoff noted that the forty-five-second period of flat chart trace coincided exactly with the time during which Swann was trying to do what he had been asked. He then distracted Swann’s attention by discussing something else for a few minutes, during which the sine-wave returned to its normal shape and stayed put. However, when he steered the conversation back to the magnetometer, the chart instantly showed a most anomalous burst of high-frequency activity. Then, after the experiment was over, the machine continued to run normally in the presence of its inventor for a further hour.
Ten years later, there had been a total of 281 laboratory experiments in psychokinesis. Much of the best work came from SRI, where Puthoff and Targ were joined in 1976 by nuclear physicist Dr Edwin C. May, and from Robert Jahn’s engineering department at Princeton.
As both May and Jahn reported to their audience at Leesburg, there had been much progress since the early days in which star subjects such as Geller and Swann had threatened the well-being of expensive pieces of modern technology, not to mention that of their owners and designers. The trend now was to use specially designed random number generators (RNGs) that enabled physicists to study something with which they felt more at home: the decay of a radioactive substance. It was known that a chunk of rock of a certain composition would decay to emit a stream of particles that could be made to switch on a light or generate a digit, but there was no known way of predicting exactly when the machine would choose 0 or 1, or ON or OFF.
Scientists reckoned that if a mind could bend a spoon it should be able to control the movement of a single atomic particle, which could easily be measured and recorded. The pioneer in this field was Dr Helmut Schmidt, a physicist with Boeing in Seattle, who published his first results in 1969, and before long the RNG replaced the parapsychologists’ playing cards and dice as the standard apparatus for testing PK.
The Princeton group carried out a series of experiments, some running for weeks or even months and using eight different operators as subjects. Some of them were able to shift the scoring rate in either direction on request, to register what Jahn called PK-plus or PK-minus, and the overall result of the series was statistically highly significant. There was one probability in about 10,000 that it was due to chance alone. Some of Edwin May’s subjects at SRI were able to do even better than that, and he too was able to present results for which pure chance seemed an unconvincing explanation.
Wait a minute, some of the military and civilian managers must have been thinking. If people can move particles around at a distance, they can snarl up computers.
They can indeed. Take, for example, the case of ‘the man who bugs micros without really trying’, described in the April 1985 issue of Computing, with the Amstrad, the house journal of a well-known computer manufacturer.
Peter Strickland is a textile technician who has an unusual problem. ‘If it involves a computer, you can almost guarantee it will malfunction if I’m around,’ he said. On a visit to a factory, he had caused chaos on the production line because the computer that was controlling it ‘went berserk’ every time he approached it. He only had to move a few feet away, however, and it would return to sanity and normal operation. The poor fellow could not even use his own microchip-based calculator. It would work perfectly well for anybody else, but for its owner it could not get the simplest sums right. He was now the proud but nervous owner of his first home computer. ‘I’m still expecting my CPC464 to malfunction any time now,’ he concluded.
Electric fields, especially when they are pulsed at very low frequencies, certainly can affect people, whatever the spokesmen for the Central Electricity Generating Board prefer to tell us. I have spent a couple of very uncomfortable weekends in the Dorset village of Fishpond, where the locals have been campaigning for ten years to have their overhead power lines re-sited after experiencing a wide range of most unpleasant symptoms. These could have something to do with the high rate of fatal heart attacks and accidents caused by drivers blacking out there. I felt some of the same effects at the Greenham Common airfield, the NATO missile base that has been the target of a prolonged camp-in by anti-nuclear women protesters. There is a rather odd radar installation there which is not pointing up in the air, as radar dishes used to do in my RAF days, but straight along the ground.. When I approached the fifteen-mile chain-link fence that surrounds the base, I felt a peculiar loss of focus, as did a colleague who was with me. Many of the campers to whom we spoke had suffered even worse effects. Whether these were produced accidentally or on purpose we were not able to establish.
There must be normal explanations for such effects of electricity on people and I wish more research could be done into them. The effects that some people have on electricity is quite another matter, and a more mysterious one. It was discussed at the Leesburg meeting by Dr Robert Morris of Syracuse University (now Koestler Professor of Parapsychology at Edinburgh University). In his well-documented presentation, he did not need to remind his audience that if there was a psi component in the ever-increasing interactions between human and computer in the 1980s, they should know about it.
He began by pointing out that although it was quite common to describe certain people as accident-prone, little had ever been done to study the personalities of those who always seem to be having accidents of all kinds for no obvious reason. The most famous example was the theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, of whom his fellow physicist George Gamow wrote that he only had to walk into a laboratory and ‘apparatus would fall, break, shatter or burn’.
Morris mentioned a recent episode of the apparent opposite of the ‘Pauli Effect’, in which a magnetometer had begun to malfunction but had started up on its own as soon as the repairman arrived to fix it, and before he had touched it. When the man left the room, it promptly shut down again. An alert observer persuaded the repairman to come in and out of the room three more times, and each time he did so, the same thing happened. ‘It started up every time he got close, and shut down every time he went away,’ said Morris. The eventual solution: ‘They got someone else to repair it.’
Morris then described an experiment he had carried out himself to test a hypothesis that did not seem to have been adequately tested before: that anomalous equipment malfunction could be related to stress on the part of its operator.
Using thirty-two undergraduates as subjects, he divided them into two groups, one consisting of those who enjoyed sports and competition in general, and the other of those who did not. He then prepared two sets of written instructions, labelled ‘striving’ or ‘non-striving’.
All subjects were asked to do the same thing: to sit and stare at a computer display unit on which a randomly generated line of dots was moving down the screen, each dot being one step to the left or right of the preceding one. Subjects were asked to make the trail drift over to one side.
Half of them were given ‘striving’ instructions, which meant they were to try to ‘beat’ the computer at all costs, waving their arms and yelling at it as if they were at a football game if they felt like it. The other half was told to ‘non-strive’ by relaxing, taking their shoes off, not trying hard at all but just helping the computer do what they wanted it to do.
Morris was testing two hypotheses at once. Would the competitive types do better than their easygoing colleagues? Would the kind of instructions each individual was given make a difference? He had shuffled the instruction sheets so that he had no way of knowing if a ‘striving’ student received one or the other.
When results were added up, his first hypothesis was laid to rest, for there was no significant difference between the scores of the strivers and the non-strivers. The second hypothesis, however, needed a closer look. Of the sixteen students given striving instructions, thirteen scored below chance level, whereas of the sixteen given non-striving orders, fourteen scored above it. Those who had tried hardest, in fact, had been the least successful.
This called for immediate replication, so Morris ran a second test using twice the number of students. This time, he added some ‘relaxation enhancement’ in the form of light hypnosis to the group given the non-striving instructions.
The result: no statistical difference between the two groups.
However, as most people involved with PK research know only too well, experiments of this kind tend to produce unplanned spin-offs. On this occasion, what happened was that the computer broke down. And it kept on breaking down.
‘We realized we had a natural experiment in front of us,’ said Morris. Looking at his subjects’ personality questionnaires, he noticed that the majority of his computer-crashers had a sceptical attitude towards their task and tended to be ‘more inclined to anxiety in performance situations’ than their less crash-prone colleagues.
‘Our computer system seemed to be crashing in the presence of people who didn’t value what they were doing very highly, and were inclined to be anxious about their performance,’ Morris concluded.
Looked at in the light of this evidence, Geller’s performance in Tokyo is of particular interest. It might be said that on that occasion he was definitely a striver rather than a non-striver. Indeed, most people who know Uri well would probably agree that he always is a striver, with his daily routine of punishing physical workouts and his generally exuberant and competitive personality. However, the picture on the screen at Tokai University froze the very moment he stopped striving. Close observation of his spoon-bending technique, supported by my own photographic evidence, shows that the same switching-off process applies here. He begins with a period of intense striving and metal-rubbing, and he then relaxes into the non-striving mode. That is when the spoon bends, frequently continuing to do so after it has left his hands.
It may turn out to be that non-strivers are most successful in PK tasks if they have previously been through a period of striving, while strivers will only succeed if they change modes. I hope this approach will be explored further.
There is another approach, and by way of a surprise bonus, the Leesburg symposium delegates were given a brief course in do-it-yourself metal-bending! Their instructor was the pioneer of what has come to be known as the PK party, an aerospace engineer from the McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. named Jack Houck. He has combined a lighthearted approach to his subject with a serious scientific one, with the help of his colleague Severin Dahlen, a professional metallurgist.
The purpose of a PK party is not to sit around and discuss PK, but to do it. The first one was held in Houck’s California home on 19 January 1981, and involved twenty of his friends from all walks of life. At that time, he had never met Geller, or witnessed any of his live performances. Nor was he familiar with the research of Kenneth J. Batcheldor, who had been demonstrating since 1964 that PK can be generated to order in small groups, using the traditional Victorian table-tilting procedure, without any a priori belief in spirits. (His work was described in detail in my book If this Be Magic.) From his base in the heart of the high-technology establishment, Houck worked it all out for himself.
The first PK party was, he told me in 1985, an experiment designed to test a conceptual model he had devised the previous year. He continued:
I had selected the PK metal-bending phenomenon simply because people had laughed during several briefings of my conceptual model, where I had indicated that I thought all of these mind phenomena worked in a similar way. In those briefings, I basically predicted that if you create a peak emotional event at the current time, you would get the phenomena at the current time, and thus, immediate feedback.
According to his model, any ordinary non-mystical person could achieve the kind of state described by mystics for centuries and experience one of the paranormal powers, or siddhis, that can be acquired in this state. They include the ability to see at a distance, to make contact with other minds, and to achieve identity of mind with physical objects.
Houck and his guests sat around in a circle, clutching their spoons, while Dahlen read out the simple instructions:
1 Get a point of concentration in your head.
2 Make it very intense and focused.
3 Grab it, and bring it down through your neck, down through your shoulder, down through your arm, through your hand, and put it into the silverware at the point you intend to bend it.
4 Command it to bend.
5 Release the command and let it happen.
These instructions, I must emphasize, have to be experienced in a group setting and not merely read in printed form. As Batcheldor has found, it is only in a group that the essential state of instant faith and expectancy can be achieved that leads to the manifestation of PK. This is an experiment in which everybody has to participate, with total and uncritical commitment.
The trainee spoon-benders were told to feel for ‘warm-forming’ signs that their spoons were beginning to heat up or become sticky. When they appeared, a little normal physical force could be used to bend the spoon. This is what Houck calls ‘kindergarten’ bending. It is of no scientific value since the bending is done manually, at least in part, although much less force is used than would normally be needed. Its value is that the bender can feel the spoon becoming pliable and warm, and can bend it into shapes that would be impossible to produce by conventional means.
‘Everyone felt pretty silly sitting there holding the silverware, until the head of a fork being held by a boy (aged fourteen) bent over all by itself,’ Houck told the Leesburg audience. The boy had managed to skip the kindergarten stage altogether. This led to an ‘instantaneous belief system change’ among the others, most of whom had seen it happen. As soon as they knew for certain that metal could be bent, and bent right now, they found their spoons and forks going soft for periods of up to twenty seconds during which they could be twisted around as if they were made of Plasticine.
By the end of the party, everybody had bent something, with two exceptions: a lady who had remarked beforehand that she could not see the point in bending spoons, and Houck himself, who was too busy observing what was going on to be able to obey his own instructions. As I found for myself at the two PK parties I attended, at Cambridge in 1982 and Basle, Switzerland, in 1983, you cannot observe and participate at the same time.
Looking back on his first PK party, Houck recalled:
Little did I know that four and a half years later I would have conducted 128 PK parties, with over 5,000 people in attendance at them. Anyone can conduct a party if they have enough courage to stand up in front of a group. There are now at least 35 people conducting PK parties around the world. These parties provide an environment where everyone can experience psychokinesis, if they allow themselves to have the experience.
One of these party-givers is New York television executive Diana Gazes, who claims that the success rate among first-time metal-benders at her weekly workshops is around eighty per cent. Just about anyone, she reckons, can learn to do it. She herself learned from Eldon Byrd, who in turn learned from Geller. Byrd was in fact the first scientist to publish a positive report on Geller’s laboratory PK, and has become an accomplished bender himself, his speciality being the crunching of spoon-bowls as if they were rose petals.
After one of her 1985 workshops, the president of a business publishing company had this to say to her:
I had a very surprising evening at your metal-bending seminar. It’s mind-expanding, indeed, to see how possible the impossible is. Metal-bending changes all reference to ‘It can’t be done.’ Metal can’t be bent, but you said it could be done easily, and it was done. If that can be done, it gives one confidence that so much more can be done.
Dennis Stillings, whose journal Archaeus has published several technical papers by Byrd, Houck and Dahlen, has also found metal-bending to be a fairly simple business once the psychological preparation for it is understood. His reply to the die-hards who insist it is all trickery is a simple one, ‘People acquainted with these phenomena find they are so common and easily accomplished, that cheating is silly.’
A twelve-year-old girl who attended one of Byrd’s parties, at which three-quarters of the guests managed to bend something, put her finger on the crucial feature of the psychological preparation. After she had, according to writer Elizabeth Fuller, ‘crunched a spoon with one hand like a female Oddjob’, Byrd remarked that children tend to be best at this kind of thing.
‘Yeah. Because nobody’s told us we can’t do it. Right?’ the girl asked.
‘That’s exactly right,’ Byrd replied.
The connection between spoon-bending and world peace may not be obvious, yet there is one. In 1983, a graduate student from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California, sent questionnaires to 800 people who had been to a PK party hosted by Houck and Dahlen. She received replies from 311 of them, nearly three-quarters of whom said that they had felt what Houck calls the ‘warm-forming effect’ after following the instructions mentioned above. An even higher percentage believed that PK existed even if they had not managed to produce it themselves.
Those who had succeeded found that they were able to use their newly discovered powers to control their environments, their health and their futures. Once somebody has found that the mind can alter the structure of a spoon (or, in the case of the Batcheldor groups, levitate a table), the logical step is to use the same mind – or better still a group of like minds – to alter more complex structures, whether physical, social or political.
Jack Houck has carried out some interesting experiments using seeds instead of cutlery at his parties, the object being not to bend them but to make them sprout. He first tried this at the suggestion of Eldon Byrd, who was present when Geller demonstrated his seed-sprouting skill on Japanese television. Houck’s pupils have been able to make soyabean seeds sprout by applying much the same technique as the one already described for bending spoons. In this case, they are, of course, only making something happen that would have happened eventually on its own, but if it is possible to use applied PK to speed up a natural process, the implications for healing are fairly obvious.
Mesmer’s pupil, the Marquis de Puysegur, who discovered the hypnotic trance state in 1784, described healing by what was then called animal magnetism as ‘the action of thought upon the body’s vital principle’. Healers, he said, should place their hands on patients’ bodies ‘in order to induce heat there’. Sudden bursts of heat are still a widely reported feature of the hand-healing technique. I have experienced them myself while being treated by Matthew Manning, an expert healer who for a short time in the early 1970s was also a very proficient metal-bender.
There are now many who would argue that the ‘anomalous’ phenomena of telepathy, clairvoyance and PK are anomalous no longer. They are here to stay and are being put to practical use, and a great deal of the credit for this breakthrough is due to Geller.
‘I think Uri Geller has done a tremendous service to the world,’ Houck told me, ‘by opening up the minds of many to the possibility of psychokinesis.’ Which, as he has said so often, is what he always intended to do.
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