Weird Science (Part 2)

Sarfatti, left, with Fred Alan Wolf in Paris, 1973 (CC)

[continues from Part 1]

Into the Pandemonium

In 1975, Sarfatti co-founded the legendary Physics-Consciousness Research Group with Esalen Institute’s Michael Murphy, funded by EST guru Werner Erhard. Murphy was investigating revelations of the USSR’s intensive parapsychological research projects, later setting up the Soviet-American Exchange Program at Esalen in the 1980s, which attracted the likes of Boris Yeltsin during his 1989 U.S. visit.

Sarfatti gave seminars at Esalen, serving as a guiding influence behind Fritjoff Capra, Gary Zukav and other proponents of the 1970s “New Physics” movement, which explored links between quantum physics and Eastern mysticism. Sarfatti brought Zukav to the Esalen Institute, where he conducted the research for his bestselling The Dancing Wu Li Masters (New York: Morrow, 1979), a book which captured worldwide attention. Sarfatti ghost-wrote major parts of the book, but a bitter feud eventuated when Zukav reneged on promised royalty payments. A notable ‘paraphysicist’ (physicists who investigate ESP phenomena), Sarfatti co-authored the lurid paperback Space-Time & Beyond with Bob Toben and Fred Wolf, later withdrawing his name from the updated edition. Sarfatti also contributed material to futurist Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati (Berkeley: And/Or Press, 1977), and Jeffrey Mishlove’s The Roots of Consciousness: The Classic Encyclopedia of Consciousness Studies (Council Oak Distribution, 1993). Current editions of both Zukav and Mishlove’s books have deleted much of the original material, which he wrote for the first editions. “Not a very smart move on the part of the authors!” replies Sarfatti.

The deployment of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) warfare during the Vietnam War led the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency and Office of Naval Intelligence to explore similar ‘mindwar’ techniques during the 1970s, through facilities like the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. The CIA funded Project Scanate was set up to explore the use of precognitive remote viewing techniques to probe Soviet military installations from a distance. Psychics including the Scientologist Ingo Swann were employed to gather intelligence data.

Stanford Research Institute’s Electronics & Bioengineering Laboratories were assigned to the project under the direction of Russell Targ, parodied in the film Ghostbusters (1984), as Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Hal Puthoff. Interest in Scanate led to further projects, such as the notoriously named Stargate, and longterm research into neuropsychology and cognitive science. Military intelligence sources invested over $20 million in the Remote Viewing (clairvoyancy) field until 1995. The CIA ended the programs in the late 1970s after determining that while there was some evidence for ESP ability, it yielded no useful results for intelligence work. The DIA took over the program and funded it until 1995, when information on Scanate and Stargate was declassified, leading to a media feeding frenzy lead by ABC’s Nightline program.

Targ and Puthoff became entangled in controversy after notorious tests of the Israeli psychic Uri Geller. Sarfatti initially supported Geller’s claims of psychic ability after Geller’s famous Birkbeck test, attended by Arthur Koestler, Arthur C. Clarke and David Bohm (engineered by Brendan O’Regan). He later labelled Geller a fraud after discussions with magician James Randi. Martin Gardner has captured this strange period in his book Science: Good, Bad & Bogus (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1979). With the publication of Journal of Scientific Exploration (Vol. 10, No. 1), and new papers by researchers Edwin May, James Spottiswoode and Jessica Utts, Sarfatti no longer dismisses much of the research as “psuedoscience.”

Increasingly disturbed by Werner Erhard’s authoritarian tactics and his 1984esque ‘psychobabble,’ Sarfatti warned of “KGB spies within the New Age movement.” The disagreement with Erhard alienated him from many New Age devotees. It was after Erhard ended funding for the Physics Consciousness Research Group, replacing Sarfatti with his assistant Saul Sirag, that Sarfatti exiled himself to the Caffe Trieste, where he lectured on time-travel techniques and consciousness research.

SDI: Rust In Peace

Contact with Lawrence Chickering of the policy think tank Institute for Contemporary Studies (ICS) led to Sarfatti acting as a consultant for the Reagan Administration’s fledgling Strategic Defence Initiative (or Star Wars project). This brought Sarfatti into the twilight world of half-truths, where the obsessive apparatus of State security interlocks with sinister forces from big business.

“I spent a lot of time with Marshall Naify in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is a billionaire and was Chairman of United Artists back then. He was a Hollywood mogul and certainly knew Reagan. Naify, Lawrence Chickering and I had lunch at Enrico’s maybe in 1981, where Naify spent at least half an hour describing in detail what would later be Star Wars SDI. Chickering worked directly with Ed Meese. [In the early 1980s Meese was a confidante of Reagan. Meese’s Institute for Contemporary Studies think-tank was admired by Reagan, Caspar Weinberger, and Chickering. He became U.S. Attorney General under Reagan but was caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal.] He asked me to write a memo based on this lunch and some of my own ideas. Around this time, I I had a correspondence with Igor Akchurin of the Soviet Academy of Sciences on all of this – so the Soviet Intelligence were getting from us that SDI would really work!

“Chickering told me that my memo was well received and that, in particular, Paul Nitze, Reagan’s chief arms control guy read it and ‘liked it.’ In addition, Casper Weinberger’s son was feeding my stuff to his dad, who discussed it with Reagan.

Caffe Trieste and Enrico’s were the favourite slumming places for Hollywooders and other ‘rich and famous’ when they visited San Francisco, says Sarfatti. Having been taught at Cornell in the ’50s by “the guys who built the bomb,” Sarfatti was now encountering “Reagan’s people who were tapping the brains of the North Beach bohemians using the Caffe Trieste” in a bid to build what was then considered the ultimate nuclear warhead for the SDI project.

“Cornell is an Ivy League School, and the CIA is run by Ivy League guys,” says Sarfatti. “I was a rebel and a ‘loose cannon,’ but I was still Ivy League and part of the old-boy network whether I wanted to be or not. I was ‘stable’ enough for the Naval Intelligence to allow me on nuclear-weapons-carrying aircraft carriers ‘on station,’ sometimes under battle-readiness Condition Zebra.”

Strange Loops and God-Phones

During the 1980s, Sarfatti concentrated on investigating superluminal, or faster than light (FTL) communication. Jung’s synchronicity meme (“meaningful coincidences”, or John Lilly’s ‘Cosmic Coincidence Control’) challenges causality and suggests that quantum-mechanics theory is incomplete. Taking a step further, he designing and obtained a patent disclosure for a ‘God Phone’ – a machines designed to decode such messages. In Science: Good, Bad & BogusMartin Gardner stated with tongue-in-cheek irony: “I know of no other physicist who thinks it will work. If it does, Sarfatti will become one of the greatest physicists of all time.” None of them could work because he was missing the key idea of ‘back action.’ Sarfatti’s early designs tried to use ordinary quantum mechanics, and, therefore, violated Eberhard’s theorem. Back-action is really new physics beyond quantum mechanics. As Nobel laureate Brian Josephson explains: “His initial attempts had the air of attempts to derive a perpetual motion machine in the sense that there were mathematical demonstrations of the impossibility. Hence I, like others felt he was wasting his time.

“But there may always be problems with one’s basic assumptions, and this is what he and others are looking at now. I doubt, however, if this has led to his reputation improving generally, since he is still working on the basis of unverified theories. If he could make a more specific model in this new area in the way that he tried to produce models (which didn’t work) earlier, then things could change. But the responses to [Henry] Stapp’s publication of a similar kind in Physical Review should make one wary of believing that people will easily be made more open-minded.”

‘Who is Number One?’

But other cultural analysts arent so sure. Sarfatti has had fierce arguments with Stuart Hameroff about his post-quantum ‘back-action’ theorem. He dismisses Murray Gell-Mann and the influential Santa Fe Institute as a modern-day Laputan Academy, because he believes that Gell-Mann artificially abstracts the mind’s active non-algorithmic understanding as emphasised by Roger Penrose. “Therefore the mind-brain system is a classical-quantum information machine, which undermines the misconceived classical theories of consciousness of Francis Crick, Marvin Minsky, Paul Churchland, Daniel C. Dennett, William Calvin, and Gerald Edelman,” claims Sarfatti. And he is angry at the confused physics espoused by populist New Age writers who lack the scientific training to interpret Niels Bohr, Richard Feynman, and David Bohm’s legacies correctly.

Colleague Fred Alan Wolf offers a succinct explanation of the nature of these psychological conflicts: “Jack is brilliant but has a serious problem when dealing with people. He doesn’t suffer fools very well. And a ‘fool’ to Jack is often anyone who doesn’t agree with him. However, Jack has had a major influence on many people including myself. He has encouraged many to think freely and to engage in very imaginative scientific rambling often leading to new insights.”

Don Webb, the Texas-based science fiction writer who has mentioned Sarfatti’s theories in his novels and short stories, and who has had anomalous experiences of his own, offers yet another perspective: “He has had some very unusual experiences and been privy to strange secrets. I sometimes get the feeling that like the Lovecraftian hero, Sarfatti has ventured too far past the Looking Glass, and not fully returned. This is an occupational hazard for those who will investigate the secret and suppressed parts of history: they may make stunning discoveries in one area whilst blighting their personal reputations in another. Conventional society fears nothing more than the isolate psyche whose genius isnt working towards the pre-conceived aims of the group-mind (super-organism). ‘Radical friction’ as a postmodern survival stratagem where there is no clearly ruling societal paradigm is required as a necessity to annihilate resistance. It overcomes the forces of naturalisation, which over time tend toward hatred and ignorance.”

Unlocking the ‘Destiny Matrix’

Future causality has influenced the contemporary cultural meme pool. Sarfatti’s fellow student at UCSD, Gregory Benford, uses a chilling ‘doomed earth’ future scenario in his Hugo-winning novel Timescape (New York: Pocket Books, 1980). Californian physicists in a 1962 timeline attempt to decipher a Morse Code-like warning sent from a Cambridge, England physicist in a 1998 timeline, whose world is facing catastrophic environmental devastation. Benford sets these irregularities, according to Sarfatti, against the realistic backdrop of academic physics research subculture: pressures from the university and government, the struggle for grants, the impact upon personal relationships, and the pressures of the wider scientific race for knowledge.

Chris Marker’s acclaimed 1963 short La Jetee which influenced Sarfatti, formed the basis for the recent thriller Twelve Monkeys (1995). The Back to the Future trilogy (1985-1990) along with James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1995) also feature the meme. Sarfatti remarks: “If these authors are receiving messages from the future, it may be reflecting the same message.”

Future causality also plays an important part in Sarfatti’s Destiny Matrix, a conceptual synchronicity timeline describing Sarfatti’s family history. He traces his Hebrew title back to the Rabbi, Rashi de Troyes (1040 – 1105), an advisor to Godfrey de Bouillon, who led the First Crusade to Jerusalem and who experienced a precognitive vision. Another ancestor, Samuel Sarfatti, was physician to Pope Julius II, and was crucial in getting Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling (the esoteric meaning of the painting, says Sarfatti, is God reaching backwards in time to create himself through mankind). This cosmology closely links with the Cabbalistic Great Work of manifesting the unconsciousness, which is probably why Sarfatti was annointed by occultist Carlos Suares as ‘Heir to the Tradition’ and given the task of “smashing the wall of light.” Sarfatti also bears the name of Rashi des Troyes and, like the Tibetan Tulkus, “I may well be a reincarnation not only of Past Rashis but more importantly of Future Rashis.”

These Rash’s, he says, are part of the Elect or Illuminati that have decoded quantum messages from the future throughout history, transmitting the information via objective art. Sarfatti cites his contact experience, Fred Hoyle’s cosmology, as postulated in Evolution from Space (London: Dent, 1981), The Intelligent Universe (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983) and Cosmic Lifeforce (London: Dent, 1988), and the Anthropic Principle as evidence that strongly suggests an intelligent yet ‘limited’ God intervened in the primordial moment after the Big Bang when the universe was smaller than an electron, to create the conditions required for carbon-based life. This superluminal being (a kind of benevolent VALIS) is implicit in the Sufi/Hermetic ‘subjective conscious evolution’ traditions, and Sarfatti suggests that this goal is what mankind is evolving towards; the true secret behind the world’s religious traditions. The pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) work of I.J Good (who helped develop the Enigma Machine in World War II to crack Nazi ciphers) and other writers such as Freeman Dyson and Roger Penrose supports the theoretical possibility of such an entity.

Sarfatti believes that his model is a real alternative to Frank J. Tipler’s famous Omega Point scenario, postulated in the controversial book The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (London: Macmillan, 1995), which is a closed universe and relies on the strong AI that Roger Penrose objects to. Tipler suggests that the fast-track evolution of information processing and the appearance of nanotechnology reveals a process of exponentially increasing computational capacities which will extend over hundreds of trillions of years of the universe’s lifespan until a final gravitational collapse will densely compact this information into an omniscient point of ultimate knowing. Essentially, God will come to know God, and humanity evolved as a mechanism for the universe to perceive itself. Sarfatti hopes his model will endure the wrath of fundamentalist Christians and sceptic atheists that Tipler faced.

“It looks as though my ‘back-action’ theory of matter on its pilot quantum wave, which generates consciousness, and my physics/consciousness model predicts VALIS in the far future of an open universe, which continues to expand forever. My superluminal theories and cosmology are compatible with Penrose’s recently published works.”

Quantum Physics and the ‘Meanings of Life’

The presence of Roger Penrose’s neo-Platonism – or recent mystically inclined cosmologies – has come under attack from scientists uncomfortable with such tendencies, including Daniel C. Dennett in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), Nicholas Humphrey in Leaps of Faith: Science, Miracles and the Search for Supernatural Consolation (New York: Basic Books, 1996) and notably Carl Sagan in The Demon Haunted World (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997). These books highlight the dangers of ‘degenerative mysticism’ on the edge of the scientific frontier.

Sarfatti believes that behind some of these criticisms is a political agenda: “Many scientists like Sagan, while brilliant, have not escaped their early red diaper toilet training since most of them have Leftist if not Stalinist backgrounds. That is where the anti-religion bias comes from in most of them.” Sociopolitical factors played a crucial part in determining the durability of established scientific facts and approaches, he says. “[Marxist sociologist] Herbert Marcuse suggested that Big Science is dominated by mean-spirited men who have a problem with ‘the vision thing,’ which results in a limited one-dimensionality. The Communist Party dominated Robert J. Oppenheimer’s crew from the 1930s including most of my professors. Luckily many of the top physicists today are religious in some sense, which is a good thing.”

Heuristic pursuers of knowledge need to avoid “the double edged sword of scientific morality and social immorality,” Sarfatti believes, “if we want to avoid tyranny and dogma.” Echoing Socrates, Sarfatti demands that “we should not allow political and moral considerations to impede the search for scientific truth. There is a delicate balance here between the extremes of Nazi and Stalinist types of corruption of Science on the one hand, and complete disregard of scientists for the public welfare, on the other.”

“We have a strong tendency to dismiss vigorously any ideas that are contrary to the official line,” says Brian Josephson. “Scientists distrust intuitions, except in the case that they agree with their own ‘gut feelings’.”

The Non-Lethal Warfare Imperative

The major testing ground for this morality may well be the current non-lethal psychic-warfare research being conducted by the military intelligence community in search of a ‘Manchurian Candidate.’

“Non-lethal psychic warfare using the distant manipulation of the consciousness of the ‘enemy’ will be an important factor in the 21st century,” Sarfatti believes. “But it is preferable to the old means of war. The potential for these techniques of mind-control to be used in the field on unsuspecting naive populations in ‘non-lethal warfare’ are awesome to behold and contemplate. They can be and will be easily misused by authoritarian immoral power structures. These techniques not only involve manipulation by drugs and ordinary electromagnetic, sound and kinaesthetic signals – as in subliminal television broadcasting and virtual reality transmission via the Web – but also purport to involve quantum action at a distance in the reports on psychokinesis, telepathy and remote viewing.”

Despite the SRI controversies during the 1970s, Sarfatti believes that ” there is still great interest,” which is proven, he feels, by the gathering of such heavyweight physicists, neuro-psychologists, and cognitive-science researchers as Paul Davies, Roger Penrose, David Chalmers, Michael Lockwood, Brian Josephson, Henry Stapp, Daniel C. Dennett, and Sarfatti himself at the Tucson II Conference on Consciousness held in April 1996, in Tucson, Arizona.

“Most of the funding can be traced to spooks. If I were head of CIA or DIA I would put a few billion dollars into consciousness research.”

The 1996 U.S. defence authorisation bill earmarked $37.2 million to further investigate non-lethal technologies. Colonel John B. Alexander of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Major Edward A. Dames of PSI TECH Inc, Willis Harman of the Institute for Noetic Sciences, and other ‘spooks’ maintain links between military intelligence, physics researchers and the New Age community, claims Sarfatti.

“We have had a few talks on PSI [ESP] topics at the Cavendish,” says Brian Josephson. “They are very well attended and in the very short term people were impressed, but they very quickly forgot about the talks, which might just as well not have been given. However, attitudes are not as negative as they once were.

“I gather the evidence is that precognitive remote viewing tests work,” says Josephson. “Not with 100% reliability but with more accuracy than standard CIA guess work. I gather that the CIA research was stopped for sociopolitical reasons rather than because it was discredited – or maybe they just felt it had been tested enough.”

Edwin May of The Laboratories for Fundamental Research recalls: “The company that conducted anomalous-cognition research for DIA was Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Since I was the director of the contractor effort in the government’s activity in PSI research since 1985, I have some understanding of what they did. At SAIC we did not conduct a single precognition experiment. In fact, except for two studies, one of which Puthoff and Targ published in their Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers article, we have not been studying precognition since 1972.”

Sarfatti could well still be one of the greatest physicists alive. Alternatively, he would be a great candidate as scriptwriter for The X-Files.

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  • jnana

    “(the esoteric meaning of the painting, says Sarfatti, is God reaching backwards in time to create himself through mankind). ”
    This possibility should be taken more seriously. That God is the end of Man, in the process of drawing Man to Him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742104313 Adam Goodwin

      This is a fascinating notion that I have also entertained from time to time. There certainly seems to be a tugging along through time.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        That was Pierre Tielhard de Chardin’s thesis.

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