Third Eye Spies: A True Story of CIA Psychic Spying, produced by Russell Targ and Lance Mungia
Remote viewing research, originally funded by the CIA, was initiated by the physicists Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1972 during the Cold War. Two of the project monitors during the 1970s were Christopher Green and Kenneth Kress - both have participated in Third Eye Spies. Green has allowed himself to be interviewed previously, but Kress spoke out for the first time. Naturally the fact that the CIA funded parapsychological research was confidential. However, the involvement of the CIA was revealed by John Wilhelm (1976, 1977). At the time of the exposure the CIA had already ceased to fund the research, but continued to task remote viewers.
Targ and Puthoff (1974) were allowed to publish some of their research in the prestigious British journal Nature and in the Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (Puthoff & Targ, 1976). This caused controversy, not least because one of the subjects had been Uri Geller, at the time very well-known for his metal-bending and ESP ability. The documentary does not really convey this and little is said about the reception of the research. Earl Jones, former lab director at SRI is shown quoting a critic: “One of those guys is blind [Targ], and the other one crazy [Puthoff].” The early research was, in fact, subject to legitimate criticism. Third Eye Spies give the impression that criticism and opposition just came from dogmatic deniers and religious folks. The latter thought that the researchers and the remote viewers were in league with the Devil. Both Kress and Joseph McMoneagle talk about their encounters with such folks.
McMoneagle is now among the world's best-known remote viewers. Stephan Schwartz, who has done remote viewing research, has also participated in the documentary and along with many others notes that McMoneagle received the Legion of Merit award. The citation Schwartz reads was written by another remote viewer Paul Smith (see Smith, 2005). This is not the right place to evaluate the claims about sucessful operational remote viewing that are made in Third Eye Spies. The cases are well-known and much has already been written about them. For example, I have written about some claims in my book reviews (Mörck, 2015, 2017, 2018) and Andrew Endersby has provided critical commentary about several claims on his blog.
There is one major omission in the documentary: Scientology. When the research was undertaken Puthoff and two of the best remote viewers, Patrick Price and Ingo Swann, were Scientologists. At the time this was not something particularly strange, but nowadays it seems as if many consider it to be an embarrassing fact that must be suppressed. Price and Swann both believed that their abilities to some extent had been enhanced or were due to their involvement with Scientology. Price leaked information about what he did at SRI to the Church of Scientology. Kress (1999) wrote about this in a postscript he added to an informative essay written in the 1970s. Other omitted facts are that Price believed that he had remote viewed alien bases on Earth and that Swann wrote a strange book, Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy. Brief extra clips could have been made about this.
While working for the CIA, in 1975, Price suddenly died. The documentary returns to his death several times. Did he have a heart attack or was he killed by the KGB or the CIA? For what it is worth, Geller, who in Third Eye Spies is labelled as an ex-spy/magician, appears to believe that Price was not killed. Geller also says: “The CIA is not in the business of killing people.” Both Targ and Puthoff recall having seen Price's body in an open casket at the funeral. However, some circumstances surrounding his death are strange and no autopsy was performed (Schnabel, 1997).
Personally, I wanted to learn more about how Price, Swann, and Hella Hammid were as persons. Hammid, a friend of Targ, was originally brought in to be a control subject, but turned out to be a good remote viewer. There were other remote viewers at SRI while Targ was there, for example, Duane Elgin, Gary Langford, and Keith Harary, but they are not mentioned. I also hoped to learn more about the 1980s which appears to have been a turbulent time at SRI during which several people left the program. Targ claims that he got tired of the secrecy and was told that “you know we are not doing research anymore” - focus was on operational remote viewing, psychic spying (cf. Schnabel, 1997). Puthoff, the director of research, eventually got tired of always “handling personnel issues, and funding issues, and writing grants and proposals” and wanted to get back to doing research, hence he left. Edwin May became the new director of research.
After his departure Targ founded Delphi Associates with Harary and Anthony White. With remote viewing they made money on the stock market. This is covered in the documentary. Targ and Harary later had a falling-out, presumably this was either too sensitive or too complicated to cover. Targ visited the Soviet Union with his daughter Elisabeth and one of the extra clips shows a remote viewing experiment they did there with the famous healer Dzhuna Davitashvili. Other extra clips concern Targ's ESP teaching machine, experiments with Geller, and associative remote viewing.
Most disappointing in the documentary is the lack of discussion about the eventual closure of the remote viewing program in 1995 (cf. May, Rubel & Auerbach, 2014). Targ places blame on ex-president Jimmy Carter for having accidentally exposed the name GRILL FLAME which was one of the names used in the late 1970s. However, this occurred in September 1995, the program had already been closed down on the last day of June before the controversial evaluation ordered by the CIA had begun (Smith, 2015). In addition, given its supposed secrecy the remote viewing program had already given rise to much publicity. In the 1980s Jack Anderson wrote about remote viewing in the Washington Post, and books concerning the research appeared (e.g., Ebon, 1983; McRae, 1984). In July 1995 the CIA declassified and released documents concerning the remote viewing research. In August The Real X-Files aired on British Channel 4 and the Independent published an article about what had been going on (Schnabel, 1995). At the end of September the evaluation ordered by the CIA was published (Mumford, Rose & Goslin, 1995). Jim Schnabel (1997) then wrote a book-length expose of the remote viewing program. Green, in Third Eye Spies, says that he has been told that a remote viewing program is ongoing.
The producer Lance Mungia remarks: “Perhaps the most dangerous secret of all, the one that Russell Targ has worked his whole life to release, is that anybody can be psychic.” While talking about the remote viewers who participated in the early studies at SRI that were extensively examined, Puthoff notes: “There is nothing different about them at all. These are just normal people.” However, Annie Jacobsen (2017) reported that Green disagrees. A man and a woman from the CIA, sent to SRI to monitor the research, participated in experiments and turned out to be good remote viewers. I believe one of those was the no-show mentioned in the documentary.
Third Eye Spies is almost 2 hours in length, not including the extra clips. Many people briefly turn up, including SPR Council member Bernard Carr, Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson, Edgar Mitchell, Dean Radin, Charles Tart, Jessica Utts, the author Alan Wallace, and Dale Graff, now known for his precognitive dreams. Towards the end of documentary Schwartz says that the research has made him realize that “all consciousness is interconnected, and interrelated” - Targ appears to agree.
I believe I knew too much about the history of remote viewing and the research to really appreciate Third Eye Spies, but I think it turned out quite well. One must acknowledge that it is really difficult to briefly cover the history, which, to some extent, is truly stranger than fiction.
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