Do You See What I See: Memoirs of a Blind Biker
The following excerpt is from Russell Targ's book, Do You See What I See: Memoirs of a Blind Biker:
I am legally blind and always have been. I have to be two feet from a painting or blackboard to see it with the detail and clarity that you or anyone else sees it at twenty feet – otherwise it’s pretty Impressionistic. That’s the meaning of 20/200 vision. I also have been a magician, an enthusiastic motorcycle rider, a laser physicist, and an ESP researcher and psychic spy for the CIA.
Strange, say you? On the contrary, it seems natural to me for a person with very poor vision to be interested in optics and perception – even extrasensory perception. I learned from thirty years of ESP experimentation and meditation that it is no more difficult to see psychically across the planet than it is to see across the room. My recurring life experience is that “things are seldom what they seem,” as Gilbert & Sullivan tell us in HMS Pinafore, “skim milk masquerades as cream.”
Although my physics professors at Columbia University gave me a wonderful grasp of modern physics, they told me less than half the story of the reality of life. They left out the fact, for example, that it is possible to experience a world where everything is made of love. And, with the help of wonderful loving teachers, that’s the world I have been blessed to discover in my seventy-four trips around the sun.
Aldous Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy describes such a world and the many levels of awareness that we can experience. Perennial Philosophy being Huxley’s term for the highest common elements of all the major wisdom traditions and religions. This Philosophy has as its first principle that consciousness is the fundamental building block of the universe – the world is more like a great thought than a great machine. The Buddhists teach that nothing is actually happening in our world, except for the meaning we give it. That, too, is one of the profound truths that I have come to embrace about life. Great writers have long recognized this. For example three of the great romantic heroines of the nineteenth century, Anna Karenina, Madam Bovary and Gwendolyn, in George Elliot’s Daniel Doronda, and were literally bored out of their minds “by the dullness of it all” – even as they were surrounded by wealth, beauty, revolutions, and social upheaval during one of the most tumultuous times in world history. They all became mad housewives because they could find no meaning in their lives. We’re not going to do that.
When, at the late age of sixty, I finally internalized the idea that “I give all the meaning there is, to everything I experience,” I profoundly reduced my own suffering, heartache, and loneliness. I began to understand that things may indeed be happening, they are just not happening to me. For example, the car didn’t actually cut me off on my motorcycle, it just moved in front of me. I can give it any meaning I like. Maybe the driver doesn’t see me or just doesn’t like tall nearsighted Jews on motorcycles. More likely, it had nothing to do with me – he probably didn’t even know I was there. We can learn to let go of the idea that things happen to us. If you want to really suffer, try personalizing everything. Even though I have no Buddhist credentials – I have not spent time as a monk. I am not even a chipmunk. But I have spent many years working on the problem.
Indeed, at this stage of my life, I am much more interested in questioning answers, than my previous specialty of answering questions. This questioning is what led to my interest in what the Buddhists call emptiness or sunyata. The short summary here is that when this basic principle – that we are largely making it all up – is internalized, we can greatly reduce our suffering from all causes. When we catch on to this fact, I have found that we can make the decision to deliberately move our awareness from fear, resentment, judgment and craving, to gratitude, peace, love and spaciousness. And that spaciousness, freedom and fearlessness is real and available to us.
Generally, freedom appears when we finally become unbearably bored with the repetition of the story of our suffering. For me, it appeared when I noticed that I no longer needed anything, especially not even applause. That is to say, no-thing will ever make me happy. Happiness ensues – it’s an inside job.
Our principle source of suffering is our defense of the story of who we think we are – the story of Me. We defend our business card whether or not we actually carry one. This is not an abstraction. I recently saw a public television documentary on the Condition of our Prisons. One of the prisoners interviewed was a well spoken young black man who had recently killed a man. The prisoner explained, “I had to kill him. He dissed [disrespected] me right on the street.” The idea behind emptiness teaches us that we can’t be disrespected unless we have made ourselves available to be insulted. The self is just another part of our story of who we think we are.
The world around us may look finite, but thirty years of research into psychic abilities and verified out-of-body experiences have convinced me that our awareness is limitless in space and time – and therefore we are limitless. This is the basic finding from our two decades of remote viewing research at Stanford Research Institute. Through my work in this area I have taught thousands of people all over the world how to get in touch with the part of themselves that is psychic. And I am convinced by the data and my own experience that some aspect of our personality survives bodily death.
Understand me, please. I have come to realize that science, history – especially recent historical events like September 11 – make it clear that no-thing exists and no event occurs independent of profoundly interconnected causes and conditions. Things that appear locally are often affected globally. And vice versa. It’s part of the non-dual, nonlocal view that separation is an illusion.
Huxley knew this, too. He tells us that we human beings can access all of the universe through our own consciousness and our nonlocal mind. That it’s the mind that fills all of space and time. Physicist David Bohm’s idea of quantum-interconnectedness has been the hottest topic in physics for the past two decades. Before that, separation is an illusion was first described in physics by Noblest, Erwin Schrödinger in 1927 – and in the Hindu Vedas thirty-five hundred years earlier – teaching that ones self is one with the entire physical and nonphysical universe (atman equals Brahman). This philosophy also maintains that we have a nature which is both local and nonlocal, both material and non-material.
Finally, the Perennial Philosophy teaches that the purpose or meaning of our lives is to become one with this universal nonlocal consciousness that is available to us, that is, to become one with our Divine, loving, spacious nature (which some call God), and to then help others to share this transcendent experience of who we are. This is also the nondual teaching of Jesus, that “The Kingdom of God is within you,” rather than separate or up in Heaven. I have been exploring the nature of consciousness and trying to pierce the illusion that this material reality is all there is for many years, and if you bear with me, I just might just convince you as well.
I am very comfortable talking publicly about areas where I have some expertise, such as lasers, magic, or ESP research. But recently I was asked to speak at a large book-signing event in New York City, right across the street from Town Hall. I know for a fact that New Yorkers do not suffer fools gladly, if at all. So I was nervous about my forthcoming talk on the concept of emptiness. I whined to my wife that I was concerned about embarrassing myself in my old home town. But as soon as I said the words, I remembered that the whole essence of the teaching is that there is no self – certainly not one that can be embarrassed. It’s all just a story. I felt entirely relieved, spoke easily and sold lots of books. Once one has experienced emptiness, he is not likely to fall back to egoic thinking, unless he has an impulse to ignorance.
Blind as I am, I have been riding motorcycles for more than thirty-five years – a bit of a maverick riding the byways of hi-tech Silicon Valley. The most important thing I learned from this precarious existence is that it’s wise to question reality – question what we think we are seeing and experiencing. This questioning is what has kept me alive while flitting in and out among the cars, busses, and potholes for all these years. In due time I will explain how I managed to cloud the mind of the Department of Motor Vehicles year after year, so that they would continue to give me a driving license even though I couldn’t read their silly eye chart.
Me and Mr. Magoo
The bumbling, nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo has been a somewhat bruising role model for me ever since he appeared in movie cartoons in the nineteen-forties. Last summer on a painting adventure to Tuscany with my artist wife Patty (Patricia Kathleen), I especially identified with Magoo as I tripped through Italy with its historical, crumbling and uneven pavement. It’s always been a sort of French Impressionist world. But much better I admit, than with a white cane, I’m sure! From a normal viewing distance of a couple of feet, Monet, Degas, and Renoir paintings look perfectly realistic to me. (Before the Ronald Reagan “tax reform,” my vision was good enough – bad enough – to get me a Federal income tax deduction “ on account of blindness.” But the Great Communicator decided to crack down on all those blind tax cheats, and the deduction is now gone.)
I have found that focus of attention is much more important than ordinary seeing. I learned this as I struggled through the humiliations of my gawky near-sightedness in elementary school. Exams were especially problematic for me at around age ten. I had to parade back and forth in front of the entire class with my notebook in hand, copying the questions from the blackboard before I could sit down to answer them. Then as a teenager I dealt with painful embarrassments of not recognizing my high school classmates – a continuing lifelong problem. I couldn’t see the blackboards in college either. And there were often no textbooks in physics courses taught by fancy Nobelists at Columbia during my graduate study years.
Whose reality is this anyway? Perhaps out of loneliness I became a proficient stage magician in my spare time, and got to create my own reality in the world of science fiction. My sensibilities especially resonated with A. E. van Vogt’s inspiring short novel Slan – a hair-raising teen adventure story with two super-bright, evolutionarily advanced, telepathic children, a boy and a girl, being pursued by the police and government of a corrupt and decaying state who wanted to rid themselves of the psychic Slan. What lonely teenager would not identify with that?
After leaving Columbia, I soon found exciting work in the earliest development of the laser, and much later I created a ten-year laser program at Lockheed – my last corporate job – to detect invisible air turbulence and prevent airplane crashes with a premonitory windshear sensor. It seems natural to me that a guy with bad vision would try to make sense of reality by becoming first a student of magic, and then an optical engineer – eventually an ESP researcher.
Between two optics research careers, I sought this clarity by co-founding an ESP research program at Stanford Research Institute, now SRI International. This amazing $20 million program (the real X-Files) was supported by the intelligence community of the U.S. government – CIA, DIA, Army Intelligence, etc., for almost twenty-five years. And magic, lasers, and ESP are all part of the illusion that we call reality. With lasers of course, it’s all done with mirrors.
Even a Scientist Can Do it
During one experimental series at SRI, I was working with our psychic policeman, Pat Price. One day he did not arrive for the scheduled trial. So, in the spirit of “the show must go on,” I spontaneously decided to undertake the remote viewing myself. Prior to that, I had been only an interviewer and facilitator for such trials. In this series, we were trying to describe the day-to-day activities of Hal Puthoff as he traveled through Columbia, in South America on a vacation trip. We would not receive any feedback until he returned, and I, therefore, had no clues at all as to what he was doing. I closed my eyes for my first remote viewing trial and immediately had an image of an island airport. The surprisingly accurate sketch I drew is shown below. The site was verified by Hal upon his return. What we learned from this trial, is that even a scientist can be psychic when the necessity level is high enough!
I produced the sketch when I spontaneously took the role of remote viewer in the absence of psychic Pat Price.
The photograph shows the target, which was an airport on an island off San Andreas, Columbia. I correctly saw, "Ocean at the end of a runway."
With practice, most people become increasingly able to separate out the psychic signal from the mental noise of memory, analysis, naming, judgment, and imagination. Targets and target details as small as one millimeter can be sensed. Moreover, again and again we have seen that accuracy and resolution of remote viewing targets are not sensitive to variations in distance.
Questioning reality is the essential first step in the greatest opportunity we have as a species – the evolution of consciousness. I believe we have completed our physical growth. Our brains are big enough. I am proposing that species transcendence is the next evolutionary step for us to take: starting first as animals looking for food, then to moderately self-aware humans trying to understand nature, and finally to our destiny as beings with personal awareness of our spacious and nonlocal consciousness transcending space and time. Every society before the so-called Enlightenment revered its prophets who had this larger view. Today, when we need such prophets, they are ridiculed, or turned into side-show attractions – think of Al Gore, Linus Pauling and Albert Einstein. The suffering, wars, depression, and confused search for meaning we are experiencing are manifestations of our inner selves sensing, and crying out for, but not yet grasping our true nature. The hardware is fine, it’s the software that must be upgraded – and quickly, I believe.
Mystics get a bad rap in modern Western society. A mystic will never ask you to believe anything. He or she will describe to you his or her life-changing transcendent experience and the instructions allowing you to explore that path yourself. It’s like a lab experiment. Try this and report back in a few weeks, and let me know what happened. I have had this totally unexpected experience twice without drugs, while sitting quietly with powerful spiritual teachers (my teacher Gangaji, and also with Yukio Ramana) both Americans in the Advaita (nondual) lineage of the great contemporary Indian Saint Ramana Maharshi. (Advaita means “not two” in Sanskrit.)
In these almost indescribable experiences, I felt as though my body was suddenly filled with warm loving syrup – love without an object. I could see clearly through eyes of love that there was no separation in consciousness between me and the other people in the room – many bodies, one consciousness. It’s like in a dream, when you experience many dream characters, some loving, some frightening – but in reality you can notice that there is only you – the dreamer. In this epiphany I was overcome, almost faint, with tears, love, laughter and joy in the sudden blissful experience of seeing with crystal clarity the perfection of my life and the world. I have come to understand that who we are, our fundamental nature, is this flow of loving awareness. In describing this experience of unconditioned awareness, the contemporary Buddhist teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche writes in The Joy of Living that: “Clarity, like emptiness is infinite. It has no starting point and no end.” My writing since then has been in service to this vision and these experiences.
Students occasionally fall in love with beautiful and charismatic Gangaji. I was once present when she explained the situation to an over-wrought, love-struck male student in a large meeting. She said in effect: “It’s OK to be in love with me. I frequently reside in love, and you are welcome to reside there with me. Just don’t get attached to this body or this form. As you know, bodies and forms change, they come and go.” Such an awakened person can and does spend increasing amounts of time peacefully “residing in love” and crystal clarity.
Through my laser research I had the opportunity to work with the visionary physicist Gordon Gould, who became the patent holder for the invention of the laser. Interestingly, though Charles Townes and Arthur Shawlow received the Nobel prize, Gordon got all the financial proceeds from the invention. In our work at TRG Inc. (Technical Research Group), on Long Island, our little band from Columbia University did not build the first successful laser, though we were on the right track, and did pioneering research. The first laser was successfully operated by Ted Maiman at Hughes Research Labs, in Malibu, on May 16th 1960. I well remember the date because it is my mother’s birthday, and also the birthday of my former girlfriend of many years, who through her deep love rescued me from spending my life living with the persona of the nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo.
I spent fifteen years of my life working on the development of lasers. I then went on to devote a dozen years to designing, building and flying airborne laser wind sensors for Lockheed and NASA – an invention to protect airplanes from air turbulence and windshear hazards that killed hundreds of people in several crashes in the 1980’s. These systems were called premonitory sensors because they could see into the plane’s future, allowing them to avoid windshear instead of flying into it and crashing. Although the Air Force and NASA liked and supported this highly successful and innovative research, the airlines and the FAA decided that “safety doesn’t sell,” so our system has not been mandated or put into general service. It also worked excellently at The Cape to measure winds aloft to 80,000 feet for the Shuttle. I believe it could have prevented The Challenger accident in 1985.
In my other parallel life, I co-founded Stanford Research Institute’s (SRI’s) research program, where we studied Remote Viewing (or ESP), which is an ability we all have to quiet our minds and describe and experience objects and events that are blocked from ordinary perception, either in the distance or in the future. Our program ran successfully for an incredible twenty-three years with a budget of $25 million, teaching U.S. Army officers on the East Coast how to be psychic, while at SRI in California were using remote viewing to spy on Russian and Chinese weapon systems. We also looked in on our hostages in Iran, searched for and found downed U.S. and Soviet airplanes for the CIA, and were the first to describe an enormous new Soviet submarine for other parts of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. We even found a crashed Soviet plane in Africa, still carrying a nuclear weapon. President Jimmy Carter gave us unwanted public commendation for this, thereby blowing the secrecy of our program.
From 1972 to 1995 we were the real “X-files.” You could say that I had a metamorphosis from Magoo to Mulder. Although our main responsibility was Remote Viewing – ESPionage for the government, we also published our findings in the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. Our work has been well replicated in international laboratories. And our exciting nonlocal findings show that it is no more difficult to describe a hidden object or person across the globe, than it is to describe something across town. And most surprising of all is the fact that the future is also available to a remote viewer just as clearly as the present.
New York artist, and lifetime psychic Ingo Swann created remote viewing as we know it, and and Stephen Schwartz was the inventor of “associative remote viewing,” which we later used to successfully forecast the changes in the silver futures market.
1974 Photo showing co-founders of the SRI program, Hal Puthoff and me, Russell Targ, together with CIA contract monitor Kit Green, and psychic police commissioner Pat Price.
Pat Price and Ingo Swann had already demonstrated that they could describe distant locations that a co-experimenter was visiting. We had just begun a series of new and more difficult experiments to describe distant sites, in which the remote viewers were given only the site's geographical latitude and longitude. Our contract monitor, a physicist from the CIA, had brought us the coordinates for what he described as a "Soviet site of great interest to the analysts." They wanted any information we could give them, and they were eager to find out if we could describe a target ten-thousand miles away, with only coordinates to work from.
Armed with a slip of paper bearing the coordinates, Pat Price and I climbed to the second floor of SRI's Radio Physics building and locked ourselves into the small electrically-shielded room which we used for our experiments. I joked with Price that this trial was just like our many successful off-site experiments around Palo Alto, only further away. As always, I began our little ritual of starting the tape recorder, giving the time and date, and describing who we were and what we were doing. I then read Price the coordinates.
Again, as was Pat's custom, he polished his spectacles, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was silent for about a minute, and then he started to laugh. He said, "What I see reminds me of the old joke that starts with a guy in his penthouse looking up at the 3rd Avenue elevated train." Pat then began his description: "I am lying on my back on the roof of a two or three story brick building. It's a sunny day. The sun feels good. There's the most amazing thing. There's a giant gantry crane moving back and forth over my head.... As I drift up in the air and look down, it seems to be riding on a track with one rail on each side of the building. I've never seen anything like that." Pat then made a little sketch of the layout of the buildings, and the crane, which he labeled as a gantry. Later on, he again drew the crane as we show it in the previously Secret illustration shown here:
After several days we completed the remote viewing. We were astonished when we were told that the site was the super-secret Soviet atomic bomb laboratory at Semipalatinsk, where it turned out they were also testing particle-beam weapons to shoot down US satellites that were taking these photos.
The accuracy of Price's drawing is the sort of thing that I, as a physicist, would never have believed if I had not seen it for myself. The drawing in the next illustration was made by the CIA from satellite photography of the Semipalatinsk facility. Price went on to draw many other items at the site, including the cluster of compressed gas cylinders shown in the satellite photo.
One of the most interesting things Price saw was not in the CIA drawing at all, because it was inside the building that he was psychically lying on top of and unknown to anyone in our government at the time. In this 1974 experiment, he described a large interior room where people were “assembling a giant sixty-foot diameter metal sphere.” He said that it was being assembled from “thick metal gores,” like sections of an orange peel, which he carefully drew. But, they were having trouble welding it all together because the pieces were warping. Price said that they were looking for a lower-temperature welding material. We didn't get any feedback on this for more than three years. Then we discovered how accurate Price's viewings had been when the sphere-fabricating activity at Semipalatinsk was eventually described in Aviation Week magazine
SOVIETS PUSH FOR BEAM WEAPON ... The US used high resolution photographic reconnaissance satellites to watch soviet technicians dig through solid granite formations. In a nearby building, huge extremely thick steel gores were manufactured. These steel segments were parts of a large sphere estimated to be about 18 meters (57.8 feet) in diameter. US officials believe that the spheres are needed to capture and store energy from nuclear driven explosives or pulse power generators. Initially, some US physicists believed that there was no method the Soviets could use to weld together the steel gores (sic) of the spheres to provide a vessel strong enough to withstand pressures likely to occur in a nuclear explosive fission process, especially when the steel to be welded was extremely thick. Aviation Week, May 2, 1977.
Although we were happy to receive this confirmation, we were saddened that unfortunately, Pat Price had died two years earlier. So, from the point of view of the experiment, he made his perception of the sixty-foot spheres and "gores" without any feedback at all. Price's detailed drawing of the sections of the large sphere he psychically saw shows that his remarkable perception was a direct experience of the site. He was not reading the mind of the sponsor, because no one in the United States knew of the spheres. Nor could Pat have been precognitively looking at his feedback from the future, because he died before the details of the sphere he saw were independently confirmed.
We would consider Price to be in the ranks of the psychic superstars, and it was a privilege to have been involved in the series of transcendent experiments we carried out with him. I have been longing to talk about them for more than twenty years. But until recently the secret was so tightly held that I could discuss it with no one outside of our very small group of SRI researchers and CIA sponsors. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to describe these extraordinary events in my lifetime, and to pay homage to Pat Price's abilities.
This 1974 experiment was such a stunning success that we were personally forced to undergo a formal Congressional investigation by the House Committee on Intelligence Oversight to determine if there had been a breach in National Security. Hal and I went to Washington for the interrogation. We were supported by our contract monitors – physicist, Ken Kress, physician, Kit Green, Branch Chief for LSD (Life Science Division) at CIA and Jack Verona, Deputy Director for Research at Defense Intelligence Agency, also Senator Claiborne Pell and Representative Charles Rose, who had an on-going interest in our work. Of course, no breach was found, and our research into psychic functioning was supported by the government for another twenty years. The House Committee told us to “press on.” We were taken to lunch in the White House dining room in the basement of the residence. With its polished, wood-paneled walls and gleaming silver coffee decanters, it provided a wonderful celebration for us after our inquisition by a skeptical House committee in an over-heated committee room. For lunch, they were serving roast pork, collard greens and black-eyed peas, all contributed by a senator from Mississippi who had just slaughtered one of his hogs – no kidding.
We became very skillful in helping a wide variety of people come into contact with the part of themselves that is psychic. In 1995 the CIA decided that since The USSR had collapsed, the U.S. no longer faced any serious enemy threats, and our program was ended. Since then, I have been teaching remote viewing to groups of people all over the world.
We at SRI never had an opportunity to search for Osama bin Laden, but my good friend Stephan Schwartz and a team of remote viewers at Virginia Beach produced a remarkably accurate description of Saddam Hussein’s hiding place in a “spider hole” four months before his capture. Stephan’s team published a report saying that: “Saddam will be found beneath an ordinary looking house on the outskirts of a small village near Tikrit. The house will be part of a small compound that is bordered on one side by a dirt road and, on the other, by a nearby river” This document included a drawing of the building with a square hole dig in the courtyard. CNN’s report said: “Saddam was found near the village of Adwar in the Tikrit area in a small compound … a river runs nearby, and a road is in front of the compound.” CNN 16 December 2003.
Although remote viewing is not a spiritual path, the hindrances to spiritual awakening are very similar to those that interfere with remote viewing. They come from our conditioning which teaches us that we are nothing but bits of talking meat, that there is no ESP, and that who we are is fully described by our story of who we think we are. I have learned to move from this conditioned awareness to spacious (naked) awareness we have to give up our ego-based, self-centered, rigid and grasping mode of life, and move into a flexible, unconditioned, nonjudgmental and joyful space. In order to be psychic, it is essential to find a way to wake up and learn to recognize how much of what you experience is the result of conditioning by parents, teachers, and the cult we all belong to, which is called society. Another hindrance to living in unconditioned nondual awareness is that one has to learn to live with the seemingly paradoxical notion that most things you encounter are neither true, nor not-true. “Neither this, nor not-this” is the essence of giving up judgment and also suffering.
I recently took part in a ten-day lucid dreaming workshop where the teacher, Stephen LaBerge, taught us to awaken ourselves from sleep, during a dream or nightmare and thereby recognize that it is only a dream. Similarly, to overcome our societal conditioning we must learn to wake up from the dream of our daily lives. That is, we must awaken from the dream the world is dreaming for us. I have found that it is possible to wake up and not be sleepwalking – at least not all of the time.