The Film “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and Remote Viewing

This film surprised me. I expected a superficial and condescending take-off on the US Army and CIA experiments in psychic espionage (known as  Remote Viewing or RV) and the decidedly creepy psycho-kinetic (PK) killing at a distance – for which the operators practiced by trying to get a goat’s heart to stop by staring at it.  It turns out that the film is that rare thing – a brilliant satirical comedy about the futility and idiocy of war – in the tradition of Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Schweik and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage – as well as the MASH television series.

There have been several accounts by erstwhile participants in the highly classified and now supposedly disbanded RV studies carried out in the fifties and sixties. In my book Alchemical Divination, I compared RV to divination practiced in the interests of healing and guidance.

“Remote viewing can be considered a contemporary variant of traditional divinatory seeing. In remote viewing an individual attempts to clairvoyantly “see” hidden factors of present reality and future developments. Training programs were developed and researched by Ingo Swann, Russell Targ, Hal Puthoff and others, and applied in espionage work by the CIA and military intelligence services. To guard against personal bias, the protocol adopted in remote viewing is that “targets” are chosen “blind” and have no particular relation to the past history or future interests of the viewer.

In the kinds of psychospiritual divination we are discussing here the intention or question of the individual seeker guides the process, and that makes it totally personal. The questioner seeks answers to personal questions of their past (diagnosis)  or their future (prognosis)….The bias of personal expectations, fears and ego-centric wishes needs to be confronted directly and reduced by repeated testing and verification.”

In the film, the operatives who have been trained in RV come off as conceited buffoons, boasting about their psychic powers, while demonstrating bumbling ineptitude and competitive rivalries. And yet, a central thread is George Clooney’s character’s guilt over having actually succeeded in killing a goat with his mind, for which he eventually seeks redemption by releasing all the captured goats and prisoners in an army compound.

An additional reference to the 1960s epoch are scenes in which some of the operatives experiment with the surreptitious dosing of unsuspecting soldiers with LSD. This aspect of the film is also based in historical fact. I have seen a British documentary of the late 1950s, in which a company of soldiers were dosed unknowingly with LSD and proceeded to collapse in helpless hilarity as they contemplated the absurdity of their situation – a scene recreated to brilliant effect in this film, as an entire army base in Iraq goes harmlessly and childishly nutty after being dosed.

The dangers of surreptitious and unprepared administration of psychedelics are also shown in a scene in which a soldier, after being dosed, takes off all his clothes and goes naked on a shooting rampage in his base – a disquieting synchronicity with the Fort Hood shootings that occurred during the week the movie opened in theatres nationwide.

But the film also contains a touching moment of heart-felt truth-telling, when the two Americans and an Iraqi civilian,  who have been captured by competing militants, manage to escape and apologize to each other for the mendacity and brutality of their leaders and governments.

One Response

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on this film. I will wait when it comes out in Germany.
    A reader from Germany

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