Ingo Swann, remote viewer and psychic astronaut, died on February 1 at the age of 79. Many skeptics today probably won't even recognize the name, but Swann played a major role in several "classic" parapsychology experiments, including the Pentagon's "Remote Viewing." His "accomplishments" are mentioned in the book The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. (A book I highly recommend! You can't imagine the crazy stuff that went on.) In the 1970s Swann worked extensively with Targ and Puthoff at SRI International, the team whose loosey-goosey 'validation' of Uri Geller's magic powers has been soundly criticized. Swann was always considered among the the "best" of the Remote Viewers.
|Ingo Swann awes J. Allen Hynek (The National Enquirer, Sept. 9, 1975).|
Swann's best-known parapsychological feats were when he and psychic Harold Sherman took Psychic Voyages to Mercury and Jupiter (just ahead of the Pioneer 10 probe). The Enquirer reporter interviewed the most famous UFOlogist in the world, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, former scientific consultant to the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, who said "These are things that Mr. Swann couldn't have guessed or read about. His impressions of Mercury and Jupiter cannot be dismissed... I was fascinated by the Jupiter findings of Pioneer 10 when I compared them with Mr. Swann's. His impressions of Jupiter, along with his experience with Mercury, most certainly point the way to more experimentation." (For more about Hynek's weird beliefs, see "The Secret Life of J. Allen Hynek" by John Franch in the January/February 2013 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer. Also see my earlier Blog entry, Jacques Vallee, J. Allen Hynek, and the "Pentacle Memorandum." )
|Carl Sagan's evaluation of Ingo Swann's "Psychic Voyages"|
However, another astronomer looked at the results of Swann's psychic space travel, and came to a very different conclusion: Carl Sagan. Philip J. Klass sent Sagan a copy of this National Enquirer article - Sagan's reply is above. He calls the results "dreadful - sort of vague remembrances of sixth-grade general science." In the "little book" to which he refers, Sagan writes of "two courageous American mystics" who made an "astral projection" trip to Jupiter. "If their reports had been submitted in my elementary astronomy course, they would have received grades of "D" .... they were filled with the most obvious misunderstandings both about Jupiter and about Pioneer 10."
|Sagan's comments in his book Other Worlds.|
In 1975 Swann wrote To Kiss Earth Good-Bye, which contains some really fascinating stuff. He makes the usual predictions of an impending ecological disaster. (The exact nature of the disaster changes from time to time, but that ecological disaster is always there in the near future, waiting for us.) Swann tells how he first established an ESP connection with one of his houseplants, asking it what was wrong when it was not doing well. The plant replied by projecting mental images to him.
Later Swann got together with Clive Backster, the man who discovered the "Backster effect": ESP with plants hooked up to a polygraph. (When "UFO abductee" Travis Walton and his pals were trying to set up a mutually-agreed upon polygraph test for them with Philip J. Klass, Backster was their choice.) They hooked the polygraph to a philodendron, but had poor results because, according to Swann, the plant was too strong-minded. They later tried hooking the equipment up to a piece of "rubberized graphite." They found it had no mind at all, but Swann gave himself headaches trying to communicate with it, anyway. The book is filled with all kinds of wild psychic visions and experiences.
Swann's website is still up at http://biomindsuperpowers.com/ .