I’ve been interesting in psi phenomena for a long time. I’ve been particularly interested in remote viewing, as it has no occult connections and is simply a way for our minds to perceive remote locations. I’ve tried remote viewing myself, with interesting results. I also recently reviewed a remote viewing documentary. I was therefore keen to read Annie Jacobsen’s book Phenomena, which recounts the remote viewing programmes created in the 1970’s in the United States by the U.S. Military and the CIA, and how they progressed for the next few decades. The first set of work was done at the Stanford Research Institute in California. A further programme of work took place at Fort Meade. Famous remote viewers involved in the work were Uri Geller, Ingo Swann, Pat Price, Russell Targ, Joseph McMoneagle and others. A lot has now been written on this subject. I particularly recommend Jim Marrs book Psi Spies. The remote viewers themselves also wrote about their experiences. Of them all, I especially recommend Ingo Swann’s writing. His books can be slow-going at times, and sometimes plain odd, but he makes profound and illuminating points. He not only reports on remote viewing itself but also its larger spiritual implications.
Returning to Phenomena, Jacobsen writes very well. Her prose is easy, novel-like and well-paced. She also packs a lot of information in, especially about Puharich and Geller. Unfortunately, I think her personal approach to telekinesis and remote viewing is flawed. Repeatedly, in the book, she states that because there is known explanation for the psi power experiments she reports on, such as dowsing, remote viewing, small-scale telekinesis etc, they must therefore not be scientific. This is a false approach. Science is the observation and reporting on physical phenomena. If a phenomena is repeatable and consistent, then it is scientifically real. Care certainly must be certainly taken to prevent bias, fraud and observational errors, but once that’s done, the phenomena should be declared to be scientifically real and valid. Developing an explanation for that phenomena is a secondary matter. A scientific theory is important and useful, as it helps us understand the world better, but it doesn’t decide whether something is real or not, scientifically; it is the consistent evidence and observations that decide whether something is real. For example, four-hundred years ago, the Flemish scientist Van Helmont didn’t know how a tree gained its material from the air and water but his scientific observations showed that trees do not gain their material from the ground, and that was a vital new fact in science. Jacobsen’s book shows that the remote viewing and other phenomena were reproducible, could not have been faked and were consistent. They were therefore, scientifically, real phenomena but bizarrely, she still rejects them as pseudo-science. It is a classic example of choosing dogma and ‘respectability’ over fact. In fact, there is a scientific theory that explains psi phenomena. For more on that, please read my book Solving Reality.
It is a shame that Jacobsen took this irrationally sceptical approach with her book, as she has filled her book with lots of useful info, but I found her attitude increasingly annoying as the book progressed. She also seems to think that the CIA and the U.S. Military are beyond reproach; there isn’t a single sentence of criticism about their tactics, methods or approach in the entire book. I can imagine that a lot of experienced U.S. servicemen and ex-agents would disagree with this view.
Overall, I would recommend Phenomena to someone new to the topic of remote viewing, particularly someone who doesn’t mind Jacobsen’s pro-military bias and glib dismissal of psi phenomena as a scientific reality. For everyone else, I would recommend Jim Marrs’ book Psi Spies.