Paul Smith was at one time a member of a secret CIA program that has since been canceled and declassified. The Stargate program ran from 1978 to 1995 with the goal of using remote viewers to describe an object, which might be on the other side of the world, without using any of their five senses.
Smith grew up in a small town in Nevada. He joined the Army as an Arabic linguist and was in intelligence at Fort Meade, Maryland when he was recruited into Stargate.
Although Stargate was abandoned by the military, remote viewing still has a lot of popularity. Some two-dozen schools offer lessons and services to civilians. Smith’s week-long program costs $3,000. He said it’s the Cadillac option because of his CIA training. Smith says, “My own particular approach is the closest to the original that is actually available out there”.
In Smith’s version, a “manager” gives a “viewer” an arbitrary number. It represents a target that could be anything from the Eiffel Tower to a terrorist’s location. But the student doesn’t know what that is. The viewer listens to the number and then something happens. Even Smith said he doesn’t know what exactly. But the students quickly sketch the target, and before them on paper appears whatever impression they received.
“I teach them how to get that number and then their subconscious goes out and finds out what the target is from that. There’s a little hand waving going on here because we don’t know exactly how it works. But it does work if you set people up in the right circumstances,” he said.
People have recently been using remote viewing for things like financial investments. There’s even an app, called Remote Viewing Tournament, that crowdsources psychic talent to play the market. On-call viewers are hired for everything from business research to archeological explorations.
Tonya Gunnarson, a health care worker from California, signed up for Smith’s class to help families find their loved ones.
“I’ve had some training with maybe discovering why somebody is deceased and the story behind it when there’s an investigation going on. It can be very useful,” said Gunnarson.
But for some students, the appeal isn’t just the practical applications. Joffre Perrault traveled to Smith’s classroom from Canada.
“It shows me our potential as human beings, beyond our physical self, and beyond our physical surroundings. You can help people, you better yourself. And anything that illustrates and illuminates our human potential is something that really strikes a chord with me,” said Perrault.
Joseph Baker is a sociologist at East Tennessee State University where he studies religions, politics, and paranormal subcultures. He said our scientific era can leave a void for some, which explains student’s attraction to remote viewing.
“Science is useful, but the idea that it’s going to take over these things that have previously been the province of religion or the paranormal, it can’t fully go all the way there,” said Baker.
He said mainstream science can’t always explain bizarre experiences. And the more science tries, the more some push back.
“People may be alienated about the cold, empirical nature of it all and think, ‘well, that can’t explain how I saw my dead relative come to me,’” said Baker.
After all, the paranormal search for explanations and meaning isn’t new. “Religion doesn’t have this stigma at all. It’s a cultural distinction between one being normative and one being considered deviant,” said Baker.
Paul Smith thinks a major lure for his students is self-actualization: the possibility that humans aren’t just “meat machines.” He thinks we are capable of more.