Site Archive: Commentaries
Remote Viewing: Conditions and Potentials
By Christophe Brunski*
The more I research the practice of remote viewing, the more critical questions I have concerning the parameters of its practice by growing numbers of people. The potential implications of the ability to gather or intuit accurate information from any point throughout time-space are absolutely staggering, so much so that when considering the expansion of remote viewing as a type of new alternative industry, I wonder whether or not the extent of these implications is ever fully appreciated. The geometry of human cognition would be altered forever if remote viewing could really advance into the next stages of development in terms of widespread mastery, legitimacy, and dissemination. Have we finally a major gateway into the future of our own conscious evolution?
There are conflicting and numerous approaches to defining what remote viewing is and what the reasonable limits of its application are. Despite the nuances pronounced by each individual practitioner, remote viewing (often called controlled remote viewing, or CRV, for short) is understood to be a method of accessing information--distant in either space or time--through psi, or psychic intuition. I think that no one is really about to step forward and claim that they have the definitive answer to what psi is, but this does not discredit the often startling evidence supporting remote viewing itself; one might say that intelligent application of a mechanism is not wholly contingent upon an explicit understanding of that mechanismís constituent parts. (Most people could be considered competent thinkers without being able to explain the workings of the brain, for example.) So if remote viewing can be demonstrated effectively, the question of its "engine," psi, can be set aside for the time being.
But here a second question arises: if it works, can it be taught? The overwhelming majority of remote viewers claim that, yes, it can. While "ordinary" psychic ability is most often said to be a rare, innate ability occurring in a select few, remote viewing is considered to be an acquired skill. An interesting theory surrounding remote viewing deepens this argument: many remote viewers support the idea that remote viewing was an essential part of the earliest human minds, and that it was in fact the vital instrument used by hunter gatherers to locate areas of abundance and safety. If that were the case, it could hardly be imagined that a group of hunter gatherers would have to sit around waiting until another individual just happened to be born with the remote viewing gift. It would make sense that the skill could be shared and transmitted with the group.
Over time, we as industrialized humans have eroded this innate potential, and we further grow away from it when we dismiss our occasional moments of deep, accurate intuition as mere chance. It is said that some of the isolated populations most virgin to modern society, such as the Aborigines in the most remote parts of Australia, may have retained all of their original remote viewing skills. The possibility exists as long as there are still indigenous peoples on the earth who live with little or no corruption of their original ways. Serious research into this topic, however, is practically non-extant.
On the other hand, fully modern people are undertaking remote viewing instruction through various affiliations and groups. But there are two sides to this coin. Tthe more people are involved, the greater the chance for a real breakthrough in understanding of remote viewing. Yet at the same time, such wide proliferation of an abstruse activity like remote viewing could ultimately lead to the same fate as the out-of-body experience, once an area of serious inquiry now relegated to being an imprecise household expression (and household excuse) for any type of mental fuzz. If remote viewing is a worthy and legitimate exercise, it must not suffer a complete diffusion of definition in the same way.
Another potential problem with the rapidly expanding interest in remote viewing is that inexperienced practitioners may end up diluting the statistical data supporting remote viewing. The success rate in remote viewing is difficult to evaluate, and the determination of accuracy is often rather subjective. The statistical- or percentage-based scoring of a remote viewerís accuracy is largely metaphorical and based on each individual viewer's practice.
In a typical photo-based exercise, a viewer is given a series of numbers or letters (A) representing a photograph which has been selected entirely at random but not shown to the viewer. The number/letter codes have no meaning aside from being a focal point for the viewer. The viewer then sketches out his or her impressions of the target (B) and finally, when finished, the viewer is allowed to see the target photograph (C) to check their results for accuracy. In the beginning stages of remote viewing development, geometric orientation is of great importance. For example, in the sketches, the strong impression of an arch (above) and the vertices crossing the horizon (below) would be judged as a high degree of accuracy because of their correspondence with the bridge and the wooden poles in the actual target photographs. The novice works with determining whether the target is indoor or outdoor, the dominant shapes represented, etc. Later, in more advanced stages, impressions of exact location, precise words or numbers contained in the target, etc., may be addressed.
In my very first RV "test," I had a very distinct impression of an image with a broken, jagged horizon. I went further, in my mind, to craft this into a mountain vista with sharp peaks. The photograph turned out to be one of a marina full of sailboats. And yet the horizon was indeed jagged and pointy, just as I had drawn it, because of the sails poking through the horizon line. Even though the content of the image was by no means in line with the one I had drawn, I felt quite satisfied (and even slightly impressed) with my fledgling RV session, because the most striking point, the "bottom line" of my impression--the jagged horizon--was corroborated in the actual target image.
Determining accuracy is perhaps the single most questionable part of remote viewing, and the drawing of the viewed target is a good way for other individuals to agree upon a level of accuracy. However, care should be exercised in crafting an exacting image, one with notes explaining its contents, pointing out any significant text that might be a part of the image, as well as any sort of relation between the objects drawn (a particular orientation or motion, etc.). One instructor, Jon-Aaron Baklund, explains: "Determining the level of accuracy of a session depends on many things. The first is: Did the viewer follow the protocols? After that has been determined, then look at the data. Look at generalities that match the target. When there is enough corroborating data, we look for finer points that match, then moving on to things that arenít known but could be there. These are called probables. Sometimes sessions are metaphorical or symbolic in nature and need to be interpreted." It is the interpretation of an RV session, and not the RV session itself, which is an intellectual exercise. A session itself is based on relaxation. The intuitive, "non-cerebral" character of remote viewing is demonstrated quite well by the fact that Jon Baklund's RV group Soulfire leads RV training with children, who often produce remarkable and accurate results.
As already stated, much of the confusion surrounding remote viewing resides in determining the basis and "location" of remote viewing; Is it a metaphysical process dependent upon some other dimension, or a cognitive one wholly dependent on the brain? One RV instructor goes so far as to say that remote viewing and dreaming "are the same thing--one happens while you are sleeping and the other happens while you are awake." I do not personally adhere to this view, because while one person might be gifted in both psychic dreaming and remote viewing, conflating the two in this manner only further obscures the character of RV and blurs an expository approach to its method. I personally maintain, then, that remote viewing is not a form of dreaming.
Similarly, it is important not to confuse RV with meditation or trance states. When working, the remote viewer is fully awake and alert. Whereas one might consider a trance state to be "going down" into the deeper levels of mind, RV might be said to allow information from these deeper levels to "come up." It should thus be emphasized to the learner that no strenuous mental exertion should be made, but rather one should become accustomed to a relaxed clarity of mind that de-emphasizes critical and intellectual powers. This in itself is a difficult task to undertake, and an individual who has learned to trust his or her initial impressions without lapsing into doubt and autocritique has already overcome the first major difficulty in practicing RV.
Not surprisingly, a large percentage of the information generated on remote viewing has found a home on the Internet. Often mentioned at remote viewing-related sites is the certification for RV teaching. This strikes me as rather curious. I believe there is a certain irony in becoming certified in something no one can fully explain. While this irony does not in itself discredit the advances made by RV projects and their instructors, it certainly inspires a certain caution when approaching an instructional setting. Baklund says, "I have personally certified only two instructors and one is currently on non-active status in our organization and the other is still an apprentice. Our certifications must be updated every year for an Instructor to remain on active status. Also, our certification is free, so we are not profiting by certifying people."
If you are interested in finding a remote viewing instructor, take note of what is promised. Anyone who promises that you will be remote viewing aliens in a distant galaxy after two weeks of instruction should not be taken very seriously. Furthermore, some RV projects are free and welcome new participants, whereas others actually charge exorbitant fees for training seminars and the right to participate in their work. This is one way to weed out uncommitted individuals, but it certainly inspires caution when considering involvement in a remote viewing group.
Although RV suffers from a lack of scientific research, a shimmering definition, and, frankly, an occasional degree of vagueness on the part of its instructors, results are produced which reinvigorate the idea of a learnable mental skill with radical potentials. The aspect of remote viewing which I find to be the most dynamically interesting and which I believe has the greatest potential for application and evolution is associative remote viewing. This technique uses remote viewing to make decisions and solve practical problems in matters where volatility and chance are involved. Associative RV is an advanced skill and to begin using it effectively a viewer must first be very proficient in accurately viewing and sketching targets.
In general, a selection of targets is used to represent a selection of possible chance outcomes; what one views is not the actual outcome of an event but rather the target image that represents that outcome. The targets are assigned to their respective outcomes by a second party so the remote viewer does not know what outcome the viewed target stands for. In this way the desire for a particular outcome does not distort or influence the prediction of what the actual outcome will be. (For an excellent presentation of this concept, see remote viewing instructor Greg Kolodziejzyk's website.)
The potentials of remote viewing are seductive and vast, and the whole movement works like an incubator for radical ideas. Most remarkably, remote viewing offers interesting possibilities for integration with other realms of mind work now reaching peaks of popularity, such as nootropics and light-sound technology (mindmachines). The current high tide of information and equipment sources makes these fields widely available to anyone who cares, or dares, to explore the application of remote viewing to other areas of study.
At the slight risk of over-exerting the premise, one might even suggest using remote viewing to study remote viewing itself: if remote viewers are correct in their claims that there is no boundary t in the gathering of remote information, then using remote viewing on the body--and on the brain--should not be impossible. Imagine using the brain to observe the brainís own activity, and then having its findings corroborated by accepted neurobiological procedure (i.e. using remote viewing to pinpoint the precise loci of various mental activities and having these assertions checked against CAT scans and other imaging techniques). This would unquestionably be the most remarkable stride ever managed by the "alternative sciences," and would verify that our contemporary knowledge and science of the mind are only the antechamber of what is actually possible.
*Christophe Brunski is a writer and photographer who works both in the United States and Europe. His latest book is called The Sea-Glass Chronicles.
Copyright 2000 The Anomalist