The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities

The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities

by Russell Targ PhD

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On February 4, 1974, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped nineteen-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst from her Berkeley, California apartment. Desperate to find her, the police called physicist Russell Targ and Pat Price, a psychic retired police commissioner. As Price turned the pages of the police mug book filled with hundreds of photos,

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On February 4, 1974, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped nineteen-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst from her Berkeley, California apartment. Desperate to find her, the police called physicist Russell Targ and Pat Price, a psychic retired police commissioner. As Price turned the pages of the police mug book filled with hundreds of photos, suddenly he pointed to one of them and announced, "That's the ringleader." The man was Donald DeFreeze, who was indeed subsequently so identified. Price also described the type and location of the kidnap car, enabling the police to find it within minutes. That remarkable event is one reason Targ believes in ESP. Another occurred when his group made $120,000 by forecasting for nine weeks in a row the changes in the silver-commodity futures market

As a scientist, Targ demands proof. His experience is based on two decades of investigations at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), which he cofounded with physicist Harold Puthoff in 1972. This twenty-million dollar program launched during the Cold War was supported by the CIA, NASA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Army and Air Force Intelligence. The experiments they conducted routinely presented results could have happened by chance less than once in a million. Targ describes four types of experiments:

  1. Remote Viewing, in which a person describes places and events independent of space and time. For example, while in California Price drew to scale a Soviet weapons factory at Semipalitinsk with great accuracy later confirmed by Satellite photography. In another remote viewing, Targ accurately sketched an airport in San Andreas, Columbia himself.
  2. Distant Mental Influence, where the thoughts of the experimenter can positively or negatively affect the physiology (heart rate, skin resistance, etc.) of a distant person.
  3. Whole field isolation, where someone in a state of sensory isolation accurately describes the visual experiences of someone else in another place
  4. Precognition and retrocausality, showing that the future can affect the past. That is, the elephant you see on television in the morning can be the cause of your having dreamed about elephants the previous night.

Final chapters present evidence for survival after death; explain how ESP works based on the Buddhist/Hindu view of our selves as nonlocal, eternal awareness; discuss the ethics of exercising psychic abilities,and show us how to explore ESP ourselves. "I am convinced," Targ says, "that most people can learn to move from their ordinary mind to one not obstructed by conventional barriers of space and time. Who would not want to try that?"

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Editorial Reviews

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"A scientist shares his years of cutting-edge research and discovery in psychic abilities: remote viewing, extrasensory perception, mental influence, space and time, healing at a distance and "how it all works: the physics of miracles."
--Light of Consciousness

"In this witty and informative new book, physicist-author and renowned psi researcher Targ summarizes three decades of research into psychic phenomena, describing the evidence as "so strong as to be logically or probabilistically unreasonable to deny." From psychic policemen and stock market predictions to military programs and the "physics of miracles," the realm of ESP is varied and deep, and Targ covers it all. He concludes with a chapter on how to cultivate one's own paranormal abilities." --The Noetic Post

"In The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities, Russell Targ shares his comprehensive scientific research to provide convincing evidence that by quieting our minds we can access information in the field of potentiality where there is no distance in space and time" --Deepak Chopra, author of War of the Worldview

"This book, detailing its author's many successful investigations into the paranormal, should make those who deny the possible existence of such phenomena think again." --Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate in Physics and Emeritus Professor, Physics, University of Cambridge

"For decades, physicist Russell Targ has produced some of the most significant scientific research ever conducted on the nature of consciousness. He has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the mind can function without limitation in space and time, and that this ability is widespread, teachable, and practical. The Reality of ESP is an inspiring description of who we really are, and why we should not settle for less" --Larry Dossey, MD, author of Healing Words and The Power of Premonitions

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The Reality of ESP

A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities


Theosophical Publishing House

Copyright © 2012 Russell Targ
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8356-0884-8


Ingo Swann: The New York Artist Whose Remote Viewing Spanned the Solar System

Why do I believe in ESP? Two of the main reasons come from my opportunities to sit with Ingo Swann in our laboratory in California. The first was when he drew pictures of a secret US cryptographic site in Virginia, and the second was when he gave a stunning description of a Chinese atomic bomb test three days before it happened, with only the geographic coordinates for guidance.

In the fall of 1972, Dr. Hal Puthoff and I started a psychic research program at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). We were both laser physicists born in Chicago in the 1930s, and we had both carried out research for a variety of US government agencies for many years. Our great partner and teacher in the SRI program was Ingo Swann, who was a uniquely creative and inspiring visionary painter from New York. He was also a remarkable psychic, whose wide-ranging investigations into little-traveled perceptual pathways allowed him to make important and astute contributions to our understanding of psychic abilities.

Ingo came to Hal's attention in early 1972 through recently published experiments in which Ingo was reliably able to raise and lower the temperature of thermistors (solid-state heat sensors) in distant thermos bottles. These experiments were conducted at the City College of New York by Professor Gertrude Schmeidler, whose most famous research showed conclusively that people who believe in ESP score slightly positively on ESP tests, while nonbelievers use their ESP to score slightly (but reliably) below chance. She coined the terms "sheep" and "goats" for believers and nonbelievers in this highly significant and often-replicated demonstration.

Ingo Swann's remarkable psychic ability enabled him to sit at his desk with us at SRI and describe distant MX missiles in their silos, a secret NSA listening post in Virginia, a future Chinese atomic bomb test, and the previously unknown rings of Jupiter, which he discovered psychically. It was Swann who introduced Hal and me—and the world—to what has become known as remote viewing. When I went to SRI in the fall of 1972 to start a research program with Hal, he had already carried out a remarkable psychic experiment with Ingo. In this trial, Ingo was psychically able to describe and perturb (affect) the operation of an almost perfectly shielded, super-conducting magnetometer buried in a vault in the basement of the Varian Physics Building at Stanford University. Swann was apparently able to increase and decrease the sine-wave decay frequency of a superconducting magnet that had been operating with perfect stability for more than an hour—until Swann focused his laser-like attention on it! No one at Stanford was amused—particularly not the graduate student whose thesis depended on the stability of the system nor the navy, which was paying for it. This incident gave rise to the first of many governmental inquiries into our activities, especially regarding our ability to see or perturb things at a distance—things that were supposed to be secret, hidden or imperturbable—like superconducting gyroscopes on spacecraft such as the one employed in NASA's Gravity Probe B mission.

It is now forty years since that incredible experiment and the other ones alluded to above. I believe the perturbation of the magnetometer was probably Ingo's doing, just as I have described it. However, as a life-long experimental physicist, I have seen all kinds of unexplainable and bizarre things happen, even to the best quality-controlled NASA space-ready systems. This phenomenon is called the brass hat effect. It is so well understood that many a general, in my experience, have come to expect failure upon their appearance in the lab! I personally had an ultra-reliable, high-power laser fail right in front of the general on delivery day. That's why my belief in remote viewing and ESP is not based on a single remarkable trial, but rather on hundreds of remarkable trials that we call an experimental series, conducted over decades. Our CIA contract monitor, Ken Kress, who was a PhD physicist, wrote up Ingo's activities at Stanford University and concluded his CIA report by saying, "These variations were never seen before or after Swann's visit." Of course, nobody publishes a scientific paper based on a single observation, and not surprisingly Hal and Ingo were not invited back to Stanford to try again.

Ingo and I are now both enjoying our seventy-seventh trip around the sun. This journey brings us together a least once a year when I visit New York City on my way to teach remote viewing at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. It gives me great pleasure to get together with him near his home on the Bowery, enjoy a glass of wine, and reminisce about some of the amazing things we have done and seen. When I am sitting at a café with Ingo, I sometimes think of Jesus's assertion about "when two or more have gathered together in my name" as we recall the remarkable things that were accomplished in the SRI program. It was definitely a time of miracles.

And now, perhaps it is time for everyone to expand their awareness as Ingo and I and many others have learned to do. Our physical bodies and brains work excellently. I believe it is finally time for the human species to transcend the common conception of the limitations of space and time. Nonlocal or unobstructed awareness is unlimited by these ordinary constraints. We can experience nonlocal awareness when we come to realize that it is who we really are—our true nature. Time for another glass of wine.

In 1972 Hal and I began to investigate remote viewing in the way any physicist would—in controlled experiments. We put a laser in a box and asked Ingo to tell us whether it was on or off. We would ask him to describe pictures hidden in opaque envelopes or in a distant room. Ingo did all these tasks excellently, but he found them to be very boring. He told us many times that, if we didn't give him something more interesting to do, he was going back to New York and resume his life as a painter. (Ingo is a wonderfully talented visionary artist.) He said if he wanted to see what was in an envelope, he would open it— and to see into the next room, he would simply open the door. Since he could focus his attention anywhere in the world, he told us more than once, "These experiments are a trivialization of my ability!" So we developed more challenging tests for him. I show a contemporary photo of Ingo in figure 1.1.

In the actual chain of psychic events, Ingo taught us how do remote viewing, we taught the army, and the army taught the world. (In fact, Ingo coined the term remote viewing.) There are now more than a dozen ex-army men and women teaching remote viewing in the United States. We meet annually to talk about the latest developments in applied RV—investing in the stock market, looking for lost children, prospecting for treasure, etc.—at the conference of the International Remote Viewing Association (


In response to Ingo's request for something more challenging than pictures in the next room, Hal asked a friend at the CIA to give him geographical coordinates of something interesting that Ingo might view remotely. The latitude and longitude were duly provided over the telephone to Hal—who, of course, had no idea where the coordinates were or to what they were related. Project SCANATE (Scanning by Coordinates) was based on Ingo's belief that he could describe any distant location, given only its coordinates!

Much of the laboratory procedures and findings that follow were first described in Mind Reach, a book that Hal and I coauthored in 1977 to offer a popular description of our early remote viewing research. Margaret Mead wrote the introduction for the book, pointing out that psychic awareness was not exactly a new idea for anthropologists who study and live with "primitive" people.

For the first SCANATE trial Hal and Ingo settled themselves in our clean and quiet workroom, and Hal recited the geographic coordinate numbers to Ingo. To begin the trial, Hal said to Ingo, "We have a target that needs a description." Hal wrote "Project SCANATE, May 29, 1973" on his notepad and started his tape recorder. This was the beginning of our "demonstration of ability" tests and the first scanning by coordinates. Hal writes of this episode:

Ingo closes his eyes and begins to describe what he is visualizing. Opening his eyes from time to time to sketch a map, Ingo says, "There seems to be some sort of mounds or rolling earth. There is a city to the north. I can see taller buildings and some smog. This seems to be a strange place, somewhat like the lawns you would find around a military base. But I get the feeling that there are some old bunkers around. It may be a covered reservoir. There must be a flag pole, a highway nearby, and a river to the far east. There is something strange about this place. Something underground. But I'm not sure." Ingo then draws a map (see figure 1.2).

Hal goes on to say, "Three weeks later, when we received a phone call from our challenger, we learned that, not only was Swann's description and drawing correct in every detail, but that even the distances, flag pole, underground bunkers, and directions on Ingo's map were correct." The target turned out to be a super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) listening post at the navy's Sugar Grove facility.

In chapter 3, I will describe how Pat Price was able to view the same target a day after Ingo had done so. Interestingly, the coordinates that had been given to Pat and Ingo were not for the facility, however, but actually for the CIA agent's vacation cabin a quarter mile over the hill from the NSA site. Yet Pat had not only viewed the facility instead, he had also been able to read the code words written on the file cabinets there. When the two CIA agents who came to investigate asked why he had so accurately described the "incorrect" location, Pat said, "The more intent you are on hiding something, the more it shines like a beacon in psychic space." (That should scare plenty of people.)

A decade later, I had an opportunity to describe this work to the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Tea cups shook in the lecture theatre when I told the assembled dignitaries that from our findings it appears that it is no longer possible to hide anything.

SCANATE into the Future

Thus Project SCANATE, created by Ingo Swann, was off to a successful start. During the twenty-year course of our SRI program, Ingo and the intelligence officers he trained described many operational targets for our government sponsors. One of the most striking was his detailed and completely correct 1975 viewing of a future but failed Chinese atomic-bomb test, identified simply from the geographic coordinates of latitude and longitude. All Ingo was told by the two CIA agents one Monday afternoon was, "We would like to know what is going to happen at these geographical coordinates this coming Thursday." I watched Ingo as he sketched his psychic view with colored pencils showing a line of trucks in the distance and a hemispheric pyrotechnic display of the failed bomb test, which he precognized and drew on that Monday—three days in advance of the actual test. The conflagration he described was the result of uranium burning in the air, not a mushroom cloud. We received our feedback from our contract monitor the next Friday and had a little celebration.

Teaching Remote Viewing

Ingo taught many army-intelligence officers how to do remote viewing. Having retired from the army, many of them now teach it to the general public, as I do. I teach it for the gratification of teaching something that students are really happy to learn. Because it is a natural ability and easy to learn, it's likely that a number of remote-viewing schools can show you how to do it. However, since none of them carry out double-blind trials or publish any information about their protocols, I contend that it's impossible to determine if any actual learning takes place—beyond just learning the process. This contention is the subject of an on-going, friendly conversation I have with the International Remote Viewing Association (

I believe there is presently no evidence that there is any benefit to paying thousands of dollars to attend any such remote-viewing school—as compared with reading this book or Ingo Swann's wonderful book Natural ESP. But I could be wrong. The claims many of these schools make are confusing to the public, as implied by their very names—Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV®), Extended Remote Viewing (ERV®), and Technical Remote Viewing (TRV®), for example. Joe McMoneagle, who was one of the first, and by far the most successful of the army viewers, has also written an excellent book, Remote Viewing Secrets, in which he unscrambles these acronyms. He also describes a very clear and sensible approach to learning remote viewing, based on his more than thirty years of experience.

Distant Targets

Intrigued by what we had seen at our SRI labs, we set up a pilot project with Ingo. Coordinates were supplied to us by other SRI researchers and also by our CIA colleagues—who were overseeing our investigations. One early result came when Hal read Ingo the numerical coordinates of a location in Mount Hekla, an active volcano in Iceland. As usual, Hal didn't know to what the coordinates pertained. But, within a few seconds of hearing them, Ingo expressed feelings of vertigo, sickness, and being cold, describing a sense of being at great height above a fiery furnace. Ingo said, "I am over the ocean. I think there's a volcano to the southwest." He told us later, with serious displeasure, that we should never again put him into such a dangerous situation.

Our last example of a terrestrial SCANATE target was phoned in by our CIA contact, who was still challenging our work. (In these carefully controlled experiments, no maps were permitted, and Ingo was asked to reply as soon as he heard the coordinates read to him.) The coordinates were for the French Kerguelen Island in the South Indian Ocean. The National Geographic map showing it appears in figure 1.3. At the time of our trial, the island was a French and Soviet meteorological station for radar mapping of upper atmospheric research. Ingo's first words were as follows:

My initial response is that it's an island ... maybe [there's] a mountain sticking through the cloud cover. There's something like a radar antenna ... a round disc. There are some buildings very mathematically laid out. To the southwest there is a little airstrip. It's very cold.

Ingo then started drawing the map shown in figure 1.4. The drawing correctly shows an island with many bays and inlets and a large mountain to the west, just where Ingo drew it. The lines on the drawing are from successive pieces of paper he required as his drawing became larger and larger. It took us two years to confirm the airstrip—which also turned out to be just where Ingo put it. The outstanding accuracy of Ingo's drawing ended our concerns about the hypothesis of doubters that Ingo had "memorized the globe." Based on his description of the secret NSA facility and the small airstrip and radar antennas on Kerguelen Island, we felt we could put this hypothesis to rest. But the real test would be to ask Ingo to describe something that was off the planet, where there are no possible maps to memorize. That was the nature of our next experiment.

By April of 1973 we were carrying out a wide variety of remote viewing trials with both Ingo and our newly discovered psychic police commissioner, Pat Price—whom I feature in chapter 3. Ingo had formulated clear ideas that our remote-viewing capabilities are limited only by the extent to which we can control and eliminate the mental noise that obscures the psychical signal. He felt that we all have the potential for unobstructed awareness, and he has devoted a good portion of his subsequent time to helping people experience that awareness, as I also have.

In order to access this awareness, however, we must first learn to recognize and quiet our "mental noise." One of the primary causes of this noise is the desire to name the things that we experience. Ingo was the first to elucidate, in contemporary signal-to-noise language, the problem of what he calls analytic overlay (AOL), which is his term for the tendency we have to name and try to grasp our initial psychic images. These initial fragmentary images are precious to us, as they are often the most descriptive thing that a new remote viewer is likely to see. But when the desire to name and thus make the images concrete emerges, as it rapidly does, it greatly interferes with our ability to go further into the remote-viewing experience. Naming, along with memory, analysis, and imagination, are the principal inhibitions to psychic functioning first elucidated specifically in 800 CE by the Buddhist dharma master Padmasambhava in his inspiring book Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness, which I discuss in chapter 12. The concept was later rediscovered in 1943 by the French electrical engineer René Warcollier, as he elaborates in his comprehensive little book Mind to Mind.


Excerpted from The Reality of ESP by RUSSELL TARG. Copyright © 2012 Russell Targ. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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