CHAPTER NINE Why
On Sunday, March 4, 1973, I appeared on the stage of Zellerbach Auditorium on the Berkeley campus before some fifteen hundred students. The Bay area was abuzz with rumors about the heavy pressures on SRI because of their support of research into the psychic. The student rumor was that the government was trying to suppress the psychic research at SRI. This, of course, was not true, but the temper of the students was angry and I thought I detected the faint smell of riot in the auditorium.
After giving them the basic information about Uri’s powers, as witnessed by me (no mention of IS, of course), I said the following: “Let us accept this story at its face value without trying to breach the credibility gap, which is enormous. What does it mean for a piece of metal which has a definite mass, a definite atomic structure, a definite macroscopic form, to disappear in a human being’s hand? We can write several equations, very elementary, of what kind of energy it would take to make that coin vanish. We can think of infinite compression and reduce it to the size of a neutrino; a kind of neutron gravitational collapse situation. We can think of infinite expansion where all atomic forces are released, and the parts fly off into space. One can think of all kinds of possibilities, but they all require enormous amounts of energy, and the human hand could be badly damaged in the process. There is no question in my mind or in that of my scientific colleagues that we are dealing with a genuine phenomenon. We absolutely believe in the validity of what we observe. Not only do our eyes tell us that the event occurred, but recording instruments tell us as well.”
“The committee that has been formed to study Geller and to design future experiments is made up of quite well known and distinguished physicists, both theoretical and experimental. We have had a number of conferences during this past year about how to handle this kind of data. We have reached a consensus that there is no possible physical explanation of what is going on.”
“I want to give a label to this phenomenon – the intelligent control of energy, or inergy: something related to the inner workings of the human mind. The next event that I want to go over with you is about the object that has disappeared parked in a space that we cannot begin to define – and the return of that object. To the best of my knowledge, when that object returns, there has never been any difference in the temperature of the object compared to the local ambient temperature. So far all studies have been done at room temperature. This is of great interest. One realizes that we are dealing with one of the most extraordinary phenomenon that man has been exposed to in recent times. One physicist has said that the Geller effect, inergy, pulls out the material platform on which science rests, and also challenges every fundamental principle of science. I know that this is an enormously powerful statement to make.”
“But in order to face this problem we have had to consider this awful thought. Normally we go into hysteria when there is even a weak violation of a principle of nature, and here I am talking about all of them as being suspect. So we have planned a series of studies which test Geller’s inergy against known experiments which were once used to establish the laws of physics. These will come out over the years to come, I hope.”
“The experiments done on Geller to date were carried out within a well-established research institute, but the results have not yet been published. I have seen the data, the movies, and I am convinced that the proof for the reality of what I am telling you is sound. This work was done initially in August 1972, and then resumed in November and December 1972. You will see the results eventually in published form. I don’t want to name the institute because a controversy has developed with respect to this work with Geller and the claims. This is the reason I have dropped my prepared talk for this occasion. Since I run the risk of saying something libelous, I will refrain from using names. But the social situation that has developed based on the Geller phenomenon, that is, inergy, is quite extraordinary, in my opinion….”
“Now, what does this mean for all of you who are hearing my particular position? You have to appreciate that this is my position; it does not represent the full story, it does not represent the truth – it is only what I see. I think that as a trained observer my observations have some merit. I did not trust my observations in such an important matter. I’ll backtrack a bit in order to tell you of some of the things I did to insure to myself and to my peers that we are dealing with a valid phenomenon. I had Geller checked in Israel by others, and by some authorities from the government as well. I then took Geller to Germany and had scientists check him, one of them being Dr. Friedbert Karger, of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, who has already put his favorable opinion in print. I also let Geller publicly work before journalists in Germany, and a series of articles were published. I took Geller to England where scientists of great repute examined him and reported favorably on his work in the New Scientist of November 9, 1972. I brought Geller to this country and introduced him to many individual scientists, and to my knowledge to date, there is not one of these scientists who will not vouch for the reality of Geller’s effects.”
“Geller is willing to submit to all the conditions of science and prove his case. I am personally responsible for Geller’s welfare while he is in the United States. I am certainly in favor of making any arrangements with any responsible group of scientists to continue this study until all the facts are in. If Geller is a fraud, as has been alleged, I will be the first to admit it, because I am only interested in one thing and that is, the truth. I also want to bring that truth out in the open for the advancement of knowledge, and hopefully and ultimately, for the benefit of mankind.”
“There are other implications of these effects which should not be ignored. If one can do these things, others will surely come along who can do the same thing. If we can study this long enough, and it really is a formidable problem, we may open up the fifth force in nature, we may open up new ideas of dimensionality, of space. We may have completely new notions of how this human transducer can tap into regions of nature that our instruments at the moment cannot reach. This gives mankind an enormous, incredible potential that even the gods of old did not have. In this scheme of nature, which I foresee as true, we should really be humble. We should look at what nature has allowed us to see and not become fearful, not to avoid the facts, not try to get rid of the implications before the solution is found.”
The students cheered wildly in behalf of Geller’s cause. The next day I got a telephone call from New York and was read an advance text of the Time story. My worst fears were realized; it was a scathingly critical article. Very little comment is needed. Time states that Hyman “also caught Geller in some outright deceptions that Targ and Puthoff apparently did not discern.” Hyman was so observant that he wrote in his report from which Time quotes about Uri: “His swarthy complexion sets off his blue eyes.” Any casual observer could tell you that Uri has brown eyes. In addition to Hyman’s incredible sloppiness in observation, there was the unsubstantiated, wholly untrue statement that “Geller left the country in disgrace.”
However, all this nonsense was laid to rest when the SRI researchers made their report to the scientific world on March 9 at the Physics Department Colloquium in Columbia University. The tone of the meeting is reported by Peter Gwynne, science editor of Newsweek, in the New Scientist of March 22, 1973.
The colloquium had all the trappings of a grand scientific occasion. The hall was crowded with physics professors, the parapsychology establishment of New York, journalists, and graduates and undergraduates attracted either by genuine interest or cultish curiosity. Murmurings of excitement greeted the appearance of the SRI physicists – Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff. Their presentation was certainly spectacular in a scientific sense . . . According to Targ, he and his colleague took just about every precaution imaginable – including consulting with a professional magician – to make the experiments cheat-proof.
The audience was generally friendly, and questions were concerned more with improving the experimental procedures than with attacking the concept of studying psychics in the laboratory.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Targ said, “The work we’ve been doing is in the field of so-called psychical, psychoenergetic phenomena. It is our understanding that these phenomena were not invented in the laboratory, but are found occurring spontaneously in the field. They are found in the state of nature. And the purpose of our research is twofold First of all, we set out to find if these phenomena do in fact exist. And if they do exist, we want to find out whether they can be investigated in the laboratory under well-controlled conditions. The work that we are reporting on today was carried out with two individuals in particular. The two people who acted as subjects for our work were brought to our attention as a result of experiments in which they had participated in the New York area with other researchers.”
“The two subjects with whom we worked are Ingo Swann and Uri Geller. The work that had been done with them was done at other universities and research organizations….”
“Now, Dr. Puthoff and I entered this research area half a year ago and we entered it as physicists. Both of us have been doing active research in physics for about fifteen years. For a good part of that time we have had an avocational interest in psychic phenomena. And it is this avocational interest that, I think, qualifies us more than disqualifies us to do this research. There are two things that are evident when you try to do psychical research and interact with subjects. The first thing you discover is that any person with whom you work who claims to psychic powers is highly motivated to cheat [laughter] – because the thing they are trying to do is at best making use of those perceptual abilities over which they have the most marginal control. And it is the universal experience of people trying to do research in this area that the subject will try to supplement whatever ability he might have, if any, with whatever he can get away with.”
“The two criteria we had in designing experiments were as follows: First of all, the experiment should be as cheat-proof as possible. That is, we designed our experiment in such a way that it was not possible to cheat. And as we went along, and we analyzed our experiments and looked at our film and video tape records, and if we decided that if a subject could, in principle, could have cheated – even if there was no evidence for cheating – we threw that experiment out as void. And we did not criticize the subject, but considered that our own experiment was inadequate, because it didn’t have sufficient safeguards against cheating.
“The second point that was a criterion for experimental design was that the experimental output of any work we did should contain objectively analyzable data. The ideal kind of output from an experiment from a physicist’s point of view is graphical output obtained with a chart recorder. And this was our favorite kind of data….”
After some further remarks about Uri, Mr. Targ prepared to show the SRI film: “Dr. Puthoff and I were not alone in the experiments with Mr. Geller. In addition to the scientists listed on the film, we had the services of a magician which is a valuable part of any research activity [loud laughter]. All the data that you will see was observed by the cinematographer who recorded it on film, and by an assistant in a separate room who observed and recorded everything with a video tape recorder. This latter was very valuable in that it allowed us to immediately replay that particular experimental protocol We will now let the film record speak for itself.” [The complete text of the film appears in Appendix Two.]
Dr. Targ was, in the words of the New Scientist article, “subdued in his conclusion.” “We do not claim that either man has psychic powers,” he said. “We draw no sweeping conclusions as to the nature of these phenomena or the need to call them psychical. We have observed certain phenomena with the subjects for which we have no scientific explanation. All we can say at this point is that further investigation is clearly warranted.”
I left the crowded and cheering festival atmosphere of the Colloquium at Columbia early so that I could report the outcome to Uri. He had been advised by myself and many others that he should not be present in the physics building, Pupin Hall; there were too many press, radio, and television reporters present, and there was a possibility that one of them might trigger Uri into some immoderate statement.
Uri was still smarting from the false allegation by Time that he had left Israel in disgrace. However, none of us realized how hurt he felt by being excluded from the Colloquium.
When I reported to him that the SRI scientists had given him solid endorsement for his work, he did not seem pleased. When I told him that the work with Ingo Swann had been reported, and favorably received, he pouted. When I reported in detail which of his experiments had been reported and which had been excluded, he began to argue with me. He said, “Why didn’t they report on the experiments when I broke the piece of crystal without disturbing its electronics? Why didn’t they report the experiment when I dematerialized the stop watch from a doubly locked case and made it reappear on the test platform, all of which they captured on video tape? Why don’t they have the courage to report all the things I did for each of them personally? And the most important thing they are afraid to tell – that I proved over and over again that I can do things to magnetic tape. Are they afraid that the world will panic if they know what could happen to all man-made computers that are strangling the life out of humanity? I’m really sick and tired of the inefficiency and weakness of scientists. I’m not going to give myself to research anymore!”
Uri’s frustration was beginning to boil over. He secretly knew that a small group of scientists believed that his powers were genuine, but these men and SRI walked cautiously in telling the world. On the other hand, Time reached millions of people all over earth, and those who would read the story could only conclude that Uri was a clever magician at best and a fraud at worst.
When his good friends and supporters came from the Colloquium a little while later, Uri greeted them with stony disdain. As they sat around discussing their individual feelings and opinions about the Colloquium, Uri would break in with unpleasant comments, implying somehow that everyone present had been responsible for getting him into this terrible position before the world.
Now, everyone present knew how hard Uri had worked to produce his effects under controlled conditions. Everyone also knew that Uri was not responsible for what had happened with Time. We all felt that IS had somehow contrived to bring about a controversy and that Uri would be receiving more attention in this way than if he were accepted as being genuine. But Uri had none of this detached perspective. He was personally hurt, and this, too, we all had to try to understand.
But Uri’s anger mounted as he listened to the trivia of our conversation. At one point he chose Werner to be the scapegoat for all his pent-up frustration. He went into a shouting, towering, abusive rage. Although Uri is very volatile and mercurial in his moods, none of us had ever seen him truly angry. And since we all knew of his great powers to bend, break, and dematerialize things, it became a fearful scene. We all took the abuse in silence, knowing that Uri had to blow off all the pressure of his emotions. We parted from our friends around midnight in New York, and Uri and I drove home to Ossining. I was deeply shocked at Uri’s behavior, and for the first time in our relationship began to ask the question “What hath God wrought?” As we drove homeward in the wintry night, Uri’s gloom became heavier and heavier in its silence.
I went to sleep with a heavy heart, and did not sleep well at all. Since IS had not produced any signs throughout all of Uri’s rage and gloom, I felt that they, too, were ashamed of his breakdown. During the restless night the conviction slowly built inside me that Uri’s querulousness, negativity, anger, and frustration would sooner or later defeat our work. The events of this night were to me a foretaste of failure, that we would not be able to intervene successfully on behalf of mankind with our superior beings out there. Somehow I had always felt that Uri, Shipi, and I were test subjects for the rest of man; that is, if we who knew could not make it, then how could anyone else make it? And here we were failing because of simple combat fatigue. In my subconscious I realized that if I did not at once bring our human relationship to a fruitful crisis, with a positive outcome, failure was inevitable.
In the morning my daughter Illyria, Uri, and I were having breakfast in the kitchen. No one was saying much of anything. The gloom of the previous day had not yet worn off. Suddenly words came out of my mouth for which I did not feel responsible. They came out with a vehemence that no one had ever heard from me: “Uri, I can’t go on with all this emotionality and negativity. You better go back to Israel! Let’s forget the mission!” I was shocked by my words but made no effort to retract them. My daughter was petrified by the power of my feelings. Shocked, Uri stared at me, then left the room. We did not speak again until the next day.
I isolated myself in my study. Everyone stayed away from me. Now it was I who had become the tyrant I tried to understand what I had done. I must have screamed out from my deepest subconscious. I knew that I should not try to carry on the commission unless I had complete control over myself. And here, in a short time, Uri and I had both broken down before our mentors. I really knew now what it meant to be a zero, a nothing.
Uri on his part was more depressed than he had been the previous night. Not only the world but his best friend had let him down. Through Solveig, who was a house guest, he sent me peace offers. But I sent back word that I could not talk until I had re-examined and weighed the entire personal situation and the value of our work for mankind. In effect, I went over everything that is in this book, and more volumes of experience that will never get into books. On Sunday, March 11, at about two in the afternoon, I was still in my study placing myself on the scale of judgment. Was I capable of carrying this message to my fellowmen? Should I step aside now, before it was too late, in favor of someone stronger, wiser, and more pure than I?
As I thought these thoughts, the answer arrived on my desk top in front of me, where there suddenly appeared the Farquhar astronomical globe. It had been in a room across the hall, and it had somehow entered my locked study. On my desk blotter pad nine pens appeared and formed into this pattern:
The nine pens all belonged to me and had been on my desk in a stone jar that contained some fifteen pens and pencils.
The globe was the same one in which had appeared some months earlier the typed message “You are all alone now, all of you for a long time.” As I have said, the Farquhar globe is made up of two nested globes. The small inner globe is of the earth and is about nine inches in diameter; the outer globe is a star map of the sky and is about twenty-four inches in diameter. One uses this globe to identify any star or constellation. A complex mechanism is used to align the two globes for a given day and hour of sighting of the sky. Then, with the use of a compass to fix direction and a goniometer to measure the angle that the star makes with the plane of the earth, one can locate the star in question on this outer globe. The effect of doing this is like standing on the rotating earth and looking out into our galaxy with a map.
To me the symbolism of this globe was clear: “Please look out into the heavens for your answer; your earth-bias, earth-based reasoning is too limiting.” The use of “why” was, of course, a very personal reproach, but the use of nine pens sharply reminded me who was asking me this question.
I felt ashamed of myself for being so frail, so petty, so weak, so childish. I called Uri into the privacy of my study and showed him what had happened. We both looked at each other with brotherly love and understanding, and we wept. We were thoroughly ashamed of our emotionality and weakness. We promised not to indulge ourselves again in such childish breakdowns. Then my ever-present tape recorder was switched on by an invisible hand. The voice said:
What has happened? Why? We will enter Uri’s brain and examine it. [Long pause] We find everything in order and pure. There is absolutely no negativity or evil in you, Shipi, or Uri.
AP: “Thank you. Is it possible that an outside force entered one of us?”
It is not possible for any other power to enter the body, mind, soul, or work of you, Uri or Shipi. We guarantee that. It must be due to your human weakness. Both you and Uri must be stronger, and in better control. The one who speaks to you now has come from the farthest reaches ever, because of the seriousness of this situation. Farewell.
As the voice ended, the tape cassette vanished immediately from inside the tape recorder. I sat down to write the above words from memory, and I believe that every word is accurate. As I finished these notes, a large metal cabinet three feet high with nine file drawers vanished from alongside of my desk. I called this cabinet my bric-a-brac drawers, because it contained hundreds of little objects that I treasure: jewelry, coins, stamps, special documents, awards, mementos, and leather goods such as billfolds. Everything that was personal or precious was there. So its disappearance was a loss, but I was pleased at this countersignature of intelligence and power. We searched the house to see if it was on the premises. The last place I looked was in my second-floor bedroom, and there it was, neatly placed alongside my bedside bookshelves. I searched it. Everything had survived the transformation without obvious change. There was only one thing missing – a gold Parker pen that had great sentimental value to me.
At 3:45 P.M. I returned to my study, where I found Uri doodling at my desk. I looked at what he had just doodled. It was a set of very advanced tensor equations describing the nature of the gravitational field. Uri did not know what he had just doodled, and he asked me where this came from. Since I recognized the equations as being of the form written by Albert Einstein, I replied, almost facetiously, “Einstein.” As I said this, there appeared a piece of paper on the floor some ten feet away from me. I walked over to pick it up. It was a newspaper photo of Albert Einstein! I remembered seeing such a photo in the New York Times Magazine some ten years earlier. I had clipped it out but had not seen it for several years. At this vantage point I was looking at my bed across the hall from where I was standing. In front of my eyes there had appeared a book on the white bedspread. I walked over to examine it. It was a book I had last seen in the basement; it was by Edwin F. Taylor and John Archibald Wheeler, entitled Spacetime Physics, published by W. H. Freeman and Company in 1963. I looked through it carefully, but the equations that Uri had doodled were not in this book, although the general subject matter was there.
Throughout all this activity I had left the nine pens on my blotter pad intact spelling out the word “why.” I returned to my study with Uri – holding the book. As we approached the desk, right in front of our eyes the nine pens flipped simultaneously in the air and settled down into a new pattern as follows (though I did not understand the symbolism or meaning of the configuration ): | | | | | | /_\
Peace reigned over our household and descended into our souls. Having walked through the seven pillars of fire, were we at last prepared to mediate between heaven and earth?
Thy will is done, O God!
The star hath ridden high
Thro’ many a tempest, but she rode
Beneath thy burning eye;
And here, in thought, to Thee –
In thought that can alone
Ascend thy empire and so be
A partner of Thy throne –
By winged fantasy,
My embassy is given,
Till secrecy shall knowledge be
In the environs of Heaven.*
* Edgar Allan Poe, Al Aaraaf (lines 106-17), 1829.
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“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”