(St. Martin's Press)
road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Never has that old axiom been better
illustrated than in W. Adam Mandelbaums The Psychic Battlefield
And almost never have we, the readers, been subjected to such a
blatantand awkwardattempt by an author to gratify his
Mr. Mandelbaum has the benefit of
detailing a fascinating subject with a cult-like following, semi-reputable
members (the CIA, for one), and plenty of glamour and intrigue.
The Psychic Battlefield
, as a chronicle of the military-occult
complex, is of interest to those curious about tradecraft
and tactics, or to those who have faith in or a need to understand
what compels humans to dabble in the darker sciences.
Mr. Mandelbaums answer to that
problem is simple: If it can be done, it will. The occult is
a science, he predicates. It is not a myth, a hoax, or a game. And,
like any science, a willing individual can be trained to take advantage
of his or her natural ability. Just as some excel at chemistry and
others physics, members of this exclusive, though growing, club
have a special capacity for remote viewing. A simple
operation in itself, RV is a method of infiltrating an enemys
facilities and taking mental pictures of words and objects from,
as the name declares, a remote location.
Mr. Mandelbaum, a former intelligence
officer, advises that savvy countries, including the USA and now-defunct
USSR, embraced the concept of psychic spying. He stipulates, however,
that the practice is not a new one. Common knowledge has it that
both British and German World War II-era commanders used the occult
to attempt to peer into the future and foresee the fate of their
causes. Indeed, antiquitys scientists spent a
good deal of time researching the power of sex in relation to strengthened
mental perception. And, as The Psychic Battlefield
the conclusion that a cross in the sky is somehow more credible
than a sign in the cards is due in great measure to cultural indoctrination.
In 1977, U.S. involvement in RV and
psychic research took a compelling turn with the completion of the
Kress report, a product of CIA sponsored research at Stanford Research
Institute. The recently declassified material affirmed the actuality
of psychic phenomena and the necessity for preparing a new breed
of soldier to engage in and perhaps countermand RV and other forms
of psychic spying. In the 1980s, The Monroe Institute in Faber,
Virginia, in conjunction with SRI, became the backdrop for the expedient
training of combatants for this new type of warfare.
Information concerning U.S. involvement
in psychical research began leaking in the early 1990s from both
legitimate and questionable sources. According to a declassified
CIA report, the worth of psychic research is negligible. But Mr.
Mandelbaum points out that the logic behind this easily (he presupposes
easily) attained report is flawed. The backbone
of intelligence is cross-collateralization of datathe confirmation
of intelligence information from multiple sources. And remote viewing
was never designed to be a stand-alone collection source upon which
to base analysis and operations. The conclusion Mr. Mandelbaum
reaches is that this widely attributed report is questionable at
best and criminal at worst in its attempt to unjustly sway public
opinion and, thereby, lessen anxiety and questioning. For if the
U.S. can obtain information about her enemiesand when there
is no security against such infiltrationthen what safety is
found in notions of traditional warfare?
Which is all well and good. The concepts
of remote viewing, out of body experiences, and ESP are pleasing
to the human mind. What a great disappointment the brain would be
were it only capable of comprehending the subtleties of quantum
physics, the critical difference between their
and the ever-perplexing smile of Mona Lisa. We feel proud to think
that we might also be able to tune into a second world wide
web, as Mr. Mandelbaum terms it, which connects the minds
of humans through space and time. And how might those who have developed
their powers to an extreme degree feel?
If W. Adam Mandelbaum is any indication,
justifiably proud does not begin enumerate the arrogance which pervades
the profession. The author makes the assumption, first, that his
audience is a group of believers. There is no room on his Psychic
for those who doubt, question, and demand more proof
than the hints, evasions, and subterfuges which characterize the
text. Then he states categorically that the book is meant only for
those with extreme intelligence. Flattering your reader is, of course,
clever marketing. But he ruins the effect in subsequent pages. ESP
is not required to divine that Mr. Mandelbaum openly regards those
who dissent as individuals with deficiencies in thought and logical
reasoning. As a scientist, Mr. Mandelbaum makes that very mistake
by forgetting that he changes what he touches. The situations and
events are plausible, but what may turn otherwise credulous readers
aside is the authors snobbery.
A capable technical writer, Mr. Mandelbaum
nevertheless detracts from the substance of his argument with what
one suspects to be the result of an incomplete plan of action. Events
are not covered in their entirety or are promised to be discussed
in greater detail later in the booka Choose Your Own
Adventure style of writing more suited to a thriller novel
than a serious nonfiction experience. Also on perilous territory
is the authors constant interjections, as though to say, Me,
me! Look, Im special! Mr. Mandelbaum wants to assure
the reader that he is the real thing and does so, usually, under
the auspices of making sure everyone recognizes that Your
author has honored and still honors his [security agreements], and
has not divulged any information of a sensitive nature obtained
during his period of service. One disclaimer is in good taste.
Two, three, and more are simple and reprehensible forays into self-aggrandizement.
Perhaps Mr. Mandelbaums publisher would not permit him to
write instead, Your author is James Bond. Perhaps he
is. But one questions whether James Bond needs a big, shiny book
to get into parties.
Notwithstanding the stylistic and
narrative concerns delineated above, The Psychic Battlefield
is an engaging and enthusiastic read that will answer some
of the questions military historians have about government involvement
in psychic research. But this is a subject which demands an author
capable of separating himself from the material and of telling the
story in a non-biased, credible fashion. Maybe Mr. Mandelbaum would
like to try again? His readers are waiting.