At the moment, I am reading a new book by Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne, formerly directors of the former Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR). Consciousness and the Source of Reality (www.icrl.org) is the extraordinary story of their three-decade journey into the heart of consciousness.
As those of you will know who have read my book The Field, their work started out modestly as an attempt to replicate a study carried out by a student of Jahn’s showing that mind could have an effect on an early version of a remote event generator (REG). Their initial aim was to determine whether mind could affect machines and how this might impact future engineering practice and indeed new technology like computing.
Nevertheless, the further they waded in, the more elusive the answers.
What they were coming up with in those early experiments defied anything in Robert Jahn’s erudite and extensive scientific vocabulary.
In a tiny cluster of rooms in the basement of the engineering school, Jahn and Dunne set up their own little universe. Within one of the most conservative disciplines at an American Ivy league campus, the pair, systematically and largely without fanfare, launched one of the most radical and essential scientific investigations since Einstein’s reformulation of space and time.
It was Jahn who perfected and continuously developed the REG machine — the 20th century equivalent of a toss of a coin. The plan was to test the power of human intention to affect equipment governed by a probabilistic system.
Although Jahn developed a wide variety of ingenious machinery, the most common configuration was a computer screen that is randomly alternating two images—say, cowboys and Indians. Over hundreds of thousands of trials, Jahn and Dunne decisively demonstrated that human intention can influence these random electronic devices to produce more of one image, as specified by the participant (more Indians than cowboys, say).
For more than three decades, Jahn and Dunne were inspired to plow away at this research, eventually amassing a mountain of data so compelling that it stands as a giant refutation to scientific reductionism.
From the start it was clear that they had to repeat these trials again and again — indeed millions of times. Statistical glitches happen even with a pool as large as 25,000 trials. With a binary chance event like coin tossing, you should be throwing heads or tails roughly half the time.
As Dunne once shared with me, if you tossed a coin 200 times and came up with 102 heads, given the small numbers involved, your slight favoring of heads would still be statistically well within the laws of chance.
But if you tossed that same coin 2,000,000 times, and had 1,020,000 heads, this would represent a huge deviation from chance.
With tiny effects like REG tests, they demonstrated that with individual or small clusters of studies, the combining of vast amounts of data ‘compounded’ to a statistically significant departure from expectation.
Remote viewing out of time
Perhaps the most astonishing and persuasive aspect of their research was the second prong of the PEAR research, called Precognitive Remote Perception, or PRP, which was meant to build on the work of Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ on remote viewing at SRI for the CIA.
Jahn and Dunne designed most of their remote-viewing studies as PRPs. All of the studies consisted of a pair of participants. One was the ‘traveler’, who received an envelope containing a destination; the other stayed behind in the lab to remote view where his partner was.
Those involved in the experiment would pick the traveler’s destinations from a pool of randomly chosen targets, or they could choose the destination spontaneously, while the study was running.
The traveling partner would then follow the standard protocol of remote-viewing experiments. They’d spend 10–15 minutes at the target site at the assigned time, recording their impressions of it, taking photos and following the checklist of questions produced by the PEAR team.
Meanwhile, back at the lab, the remote viewer would record and draw his or her impressions of the traveler’s destination, from half an hour to nine days before the traveler arrived.
This was remote viewing with an interesting twist: the viewer had to see the target before his partner had even chosen it.
Nevertheless, remote viewing out of time worked; of PEAR’s 336 formal trials, more than two-thirds offered accuracy far beyond that achievable by chance. The overall odds against chance in the complete remote viewing database was one billion to one.
As this book makes clear, individual cases were breathtaking in their accuracy. In one instance, the traveler was in Cornwall, in the UK, at the circular ruins of Launceston Castle. His partner, the remote viewer, had traveled to Pompano Beach, Florida, over 4000 miles away, where he described the target approximately 31 hours before the traveller visited his target:
“Agent standing with back to large gray building looking at a circular structure of building of unusual design, possibly with some kind of spiral motif twining around it. . . The main structure is of generally circular shape, somewhat higher than it is wide, made of light colored material, probably stone. . .
Another traveler headed to a sidewalk café in Balaton, Hungary, where they drank beer and wine on a tree-lined sidewalk.
Meanwhile, his partner, 5000 miles away in Burlington, Vermont, had noted down his remote view nine days before the partner reached his target:
“I see (the agent) sitting at a table, in an outdoor café or at a brightly lit indoor café table. He is with 2 or three others, drinking something (tea or beer?), and talking. . . There are leaves and vegetation around, perhaps they’re sitting among trees . . . The ground surface is inlaid stone of some kind, perhaps cobblestone.”
Perhaps the most paradigm busting aspect of this data is the fact that results were utterly independent of spatial or temporal constraints; no matter how far apart or when the remote view was generated, a good percentage of their participants produced their target correctly. Many of the remote viewers ‘saw’ their partners at the target site before the travelers even knew where they were going.
Despite scores of provocative examples like these, when Jahn and Dunne attempted to truly systematize their results through a statistical scoring system, they failed to yield a significant result.
As the pair quote Larry Dossey by way of explanation: “ When we put [psi experiences] under the microscope, we hinder their appearance. . . . This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or that the prior experiments documenting their existence lied, but that we have hounded them into hiding with our petulant demands.”
Every so often in frontier science, a scientist bumps his head against a wall. The wall isn’t the limit of his data but the limit of the current scientific model. In order to comprehend the wondrous nature of our universe, periodically we need a new science.
In this book, the culmination of a quarter century’s painstaking and remarkable research, Jahn and Dunne make it clear that they long outgrew the current model. The ultimate destination of their journey was into a heart of darkness.
In order to fully understand everything that they discovered, we may have to wait until a new Einstein follows their lead and emerges into the light — with a new science and more accurate notions about space and time.