Perceptual Gardening in the Fields of Popular Science — Quantum Entanglement, Non-Locality and the Psi Question

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on November 15, 2019


In 2013, at a Remote Viewing seminar for the Rhine Research Center, Ed May, former project director of Star Gate, the infamous U.S. “psychic spy” program, addressed a pair of questions that threatened to overheat the atmosphere of the peaceful two day event. The first was in regard to quantum entanglement and consciousness, and the second was on non-locality.

“Most of those speculations are complete crap.”

Now, before leaping to defend these concepts, or, if you are a bit more skeptical, applauding May’s directness, keep in mind that this man has spent the last three decades doing serious research into anomalous cognition, and helping to manage one of the most intensive operative psychical research programs in the 20th century. Sitting next to him was Joseph McMoneagle, one of the world’s most tested psychics and inner-space explorers, and he was in full agreement based on his own experience.

Also keep in mind that May works with, or has worked with, most of the serious researchers who are using these metaphors and allegorical comparisons in their public presentations. Which is the problem, these concepts are often presented as something more than allegorical comparisons, and the media just isn’t capable of addressing nuance when it’s easier, and more saleable, to jump on a pithy bit of erroneous scientific jargon.

Allegories and Models

Quantum entanglement and non-locality are very specific mathematical models used in physics, which apply to very specific areas of the physical world. As McMoneagle pointed out, neither of these models address what he experiences while working with Remote Viewing, or any other anomalous cognitive modality, nor do they address the core question of anomalous information transfer.

As specialized mathematical models they shouldn’t be expected to. It’s a huge leap to go from quirky quantum models to a human being able to draw an accurate picture of a top secret experimental Soviet submarine across the globe using nothing more than their mind.

As allegories these concepts of quantum entanglement and non-locality are no different than the use of the word telepathy to explain anomalous cognition while telegraphs, telephones, and television were the new fruit on the scientific vine. For those writers more keyed in on discoveries in magnetism consciousness was described as “thought vibrations” or in terms of magnetized fluid.

Questions in biology involving quantum functions are specialized and go far beyond the simple use of these concepts in the popular press. Theories, such as those of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, which posit quantum level aspects of consciousness, deal with very specific interactions between neurons. They don’t provide the kind of overarching theory of everything that phrases like “Quantum Consciousness” have come to mean in the popular conversation.

Nice Marketing, Bad Science

Want to know what you are like inside you? Well, your inner experience is kind of like that expensive thing we’re doing in R&D.

Does that provide a valid scientific model for consciousness? Not really, what it does is provide an allegorical or metaphorical comparison that can be used to write about consciousness within whatever language is current in the field of popular science.

It’s a nice marketing tool for the current scientific establishment, but it’s bad for science in the long run. It also becomes an easy blind for scam science being passed to the public in hazy terms that sound good enough to draw dollars, or alternative spiritualities masking themselves as rational inquiry. While there are exciting changes occurring in the sciences they are much more nuanced than the general accounts available in the media give credit to.

We all have the ability to personally engage with this research, but it has to be at the level of the research, and not scraping together a few crumbs from the newspaper and secondary sources. If you look at the more reasonable “quantum consciousness” books they all couch themselves in caveats such as stating the books “use the language and concepts of quantum physics” as explanatory devices, not as scientific models.

We get into even more fragile lines of comparison when we attempt to align spiritual systems with these concepts. Again we can easily fall into the error of mistaking resonance, with direct correspondence, and commingling different levels of discourse without taking care to understand important distinctions.

Allegories are very useful in thought experiments. However, thought experiments are exploratory tools, and the history of science shows this exploration moves towards an ever elusive and ephemeral goal. The eschatological politicized narrative of the media, where some glowing moment of progress will answer all of our deepest questions, hampers serious inquiry by reifying these allegorical comparisons into a false end game.

Observations & Phenomena

May also addressed common confusion over the idea of the observer effect in quantum physics, and the observer effect in psychical research. These two concepts often become enmeshed in the same sloppy narrative, yet just as with the other allegorical comparisons, we have a mathematical model dealing with wave functions in experimental physics, and in psychical research we have an effect where the researcher’s attitude and intentionappears to have some correlation with the results of the experiment.

Because the thought experiment used to describe the observer effect in physics sounds similar to what is seen in experiments in psychical research, ie. the experimenter affects the experiment, careless coverage can conflate the two into a single narrative. Yet all we really have here is the fact that a descriptive story used to explain and work with an abstract mathematical model is similar to how we describe what happens in the lab during psi experiments. The stories are similar, the subject of the story is not.

A Renaissance in Consciousness Studies

Reading this I hope you haven’t gotten the sense that May is some grumpy materialist bent on destroying a renaissance in consciousness studies. In fact he is a virulently curious and thorough researcher who is concerned that clumsy coverage of these areas is hindering, not helping, serious investigation and practical development.

He ran a program that successfully integrated anomalous cognitive functioning with high level government intelligence, and is well aware of what approaches seem to work, what approaches don’t, and what questions remain unanswered.

Skeptics of the Remote Viewing program like to point out that it was shut down after the American Institutes for Research review of program found that there was no practical value in continuing research and application. May has responded to these criticisms in a paper published in the Journal of Parapsychology, and added during the recent seminar that when the records from the program were declassified it turned out that the majority of the reports he had sent in for the review were unopened.

Another reason to avoid easy explanations comes from McMoneagle’s personal experience. Easy language and marketable jargon simply don’t help you develop your perceptual awareness. For those serious about investigating the potential of their minds, allowing yourself to accept degraded conceptual models only serves to slow progress.

Political Realities & Cutting Edge Research

Having dealt with the dirty political realities of cutting edge research and development, it’s horrific to scientists like May when they see their work further confused through lazy journalism and popularizers seeking to profit from the public’s credulity. There are valuable insights to be shared and explored that go far beyond the utopian fantasies evoked by the less credible popularizers of consciousness studies.

One of the most important lessons I’ve taken from my time at the Rhine Research Center with researchers like Russell Targ, Ed May and Joe McMoneagle is that the basics of psychic functioning are quite simple, so simple that the real work is in undoing the habitual mental behavior that keeps us from accessing them. This includes losing our preconceptions of what “psychic functioning” is.

Some people are more talented in these areas than others, and while exercising these skills can help anyone gain a better understanding of their perceptual biases, only those with an innate capability are able to get results on par with psychics like McMoneagle.

When paying for Remote Viewing training, or any other consciousness development training that aims at objective use, you need to take these things into account, or become grossly discouraged when you walk away with less than you expected to get out of the lessons. As the contemplative practitioner David Chaim Smith once told me, true gnosis is worth nothing, who would pay for that?

You Can’t Pay for It

More importantly, don’t get tricked into thinking you can pay for it in anything other than personal experience. Joe McMoneagle has had multiple Near Death Experiences, saw some of the most brutal aspects of the Vietnam war and Cold War as an active Army Intelligence operative, and has benefitted from some of the most advanced research and training in the area of psychic development. He’s a weaponized psychic, a professionally trained psychonaut, and to assume that you could buy into that without the same degree of personal experience, dedication and extensive training is rather foolish.

In the midst of all of this there are amazing insights into our reality awaiting those that would pursue them with diligence. Ed May says that he’s never had a paranormal experience or seen anything paranormal, but he has worked with some of the most thoroughly tested psychics in the world. His curiosity and enjoyment of life allows him to keep an open mind without romanticising the experience.

Russell Targ’s work on laser guidance systems for Lockheed Martin bears a surprising resonance with his work in the development of Remote Viewing protocols that allow the mind to become a sort of laser-like long distance guidance system accessing information outside of all expected boundaries. Working in both the very real mechanics of physics, while thinking freely about the implications of his experimental research, allows him to access to a wider range of possibilities.

Exploring Consciousness

If we are serious about exploring consciousness, and the implications of advanced research, we have to be serious about the integrity of our investigation at every level. McMoneagle admits that his skills are not 100% accurate, and that what he has been able to do raises more questions than it really answers. The seductive voice of an easy sell won’t guide us to those rare insights we seek, especially treading in some of the more uncertain areas of science.

Integral experience and insight into the human condition can only be found by tending to your own perceptual gardens. Allowing our understanding to be clouded with poorly interpreted models haphazardly appropriated from physics does nothing to further our quest.

These are not easy areas to engage with, depending on what specialized area of knowledge you are coming from the questions take on different aspects. Physicists, chemists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, artists, religious authorities, spiritual teachers, and every other area of human endeavor has in some way sought to explain the question of consciousness. All of them gnawing on a different chunk of the existential elephant.

Perceptual Gardening — A Brief, and Necessarily Incomplete, List of Resources

For those interested in joining the feast, and investigating these prickly questions, here is a list of resources that I’ve found useful. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the topic of consciousness, and the extensive depth of the field, it’s impossible to bring together a short list of material that covers everything.

My own predilections towards psychical research at the moment are very much in evidence, as it seems to me that until the questions raised by research into anomalous cognition can be settled it’s difficult to adventure too far into reductionist theories without danger of losing something valuable:

The book Mind and Consciousness: 5 Questions, contains interviews with a number of leading cognitive theorists, including leading materialist thinkers, providing a valuable introduction to some of the more mainstream theories of mind that are currently in play.

Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False provides a philosophical argument for cultivating a greater level of nuance in discussing these complicated areas of investigation.

Russell Targ’s webpage has links to the Classics in Consciousness series he edited for Hampton Roads, as well as links to his own books on the subject. These provide insights into the more established studies in the area of anomalous cognition: http://www.espresearch.com/

Ed May has made a number of his papers available on the Cognitive Science Laboratory website, including updated information on Russian psychical experiments, and research protocols for those interested in gaining a practical understanding of Remote Viewing experiments: http://www.lfr.org/lfr/csl/academic/library.html and http://www.lfr.org/LFR/csl/academic/whitepapers.html

Dean Radin has a collection of selected peer-reviewed journal publications on psi research available for download from his website: http://deanradin.com/evidence/evidence.htm

Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne’s book Consciousness and the Source of Reality discusses the theories that have came out of their work with the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory.

Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, from Edward Kelly and Emily Williams Kelly, Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the University of Virginia, provides an overview of research that challenges reductionist models of the mind.

The Hyperspace of Consciousness — Author Interview with Massimo Teodorani — Teodorani tackles the issue of ‘quantum consciousness’ through the lens of hard science — http://psican.org/index.php/books-a-resources-reviews/1007-the-hyperspace-of-consciousness-author-interview

For those interested in more direct experience, these groups and organizations regularly holds talks, seminars and workshops with leading researchers in the field:

The Rhine Research Center http://www.rhine.org

The Institute of Noetic Sciences: http://www.noetic.org

Society for Psychical Research: http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/

Anthropology, Consciousness and Culture: http://anthreligconsc.weebly.com/

The Windbridge Research Center: http://www.windbridge.org

Threshold: Journal of Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies: http://www.windbridge.org/threshold/

As my own list is admittedly biased, what are some resources that you’ve found are valuable? Please feel free to add and discuss recommendations in the comments section.

4 Responses

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  1. Michael Redmond said, on November 15, 2019 at 10:48 am

    This is a brilliant paper, David, and a significant contribution to the basic orientation of non-professional inquirers seeking to get a handle on the field(s) you address. I hope it finds a wide readership. Congratulations and thanks.

  2. Tom Butler said, on November 15, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you for this essay, especially!

    A source of consternation for me is how my fellow paranormalists gravitate to “silver bullet” solutions and explanations. They pick up the sexy new idea and happily run down the rabbit hole, arguing with anyone without a Ph.D. who suggests otherwise.

    I do not blame the journalists. They are putting out what they have been told. I blame our knowledge leaders.

    A term I resort to too often is Academic-Layperson Partition. Besides a pattern of parapsychologist’s disrespect of their practitioner research subjects, there is a failure to communicate current understanding with the general community. We are free and willing sources of experience, asking only to learn what can be made of that experience that is not fantasy.

    If the academics cannot learn to communicate with the average person seeking to understand these phenomena, the average person will turn to whatever seemingly “real’ truth they can find. Quantum anything is just too sexy to resist.

  3. multisenserealism said, on November 15, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    I also recommend

    Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, by Imants Barušs, BSc, MSc, PhD, and Julia Mossbridge, PhD


  4. Michael Redmond said, on November 16, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    And I recommend “How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival” by David Kaiser, professor at MIT, where he teaches in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society and the Department of Physics. A Fellow of the American Physical Society, he received the History of Science Society’s Pfizer Award for his book ‘Drawing Theories Apart,’ which traces how Richard Feynman’s idiosyncratic approach to quantum theory entered the mainstream.


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