After working for the US government’s top secret psychic espionage program known as Stargate, Dean Radin, PhD and Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Science (IONS), says magic is a natural aspect of reality and each of us can tap into this power with diligent practice. We sat down with him to delve into how and why.
CC: Tell us a little bit about how you got started with your career and how you became involved with the Institute.
Dean Radin: So my background is an undergraduate and master’s in electrical engineering and then a doctorate in psychology [from] the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. I’d always been interested in matters of the mind, consciousness.
What are we capable of? Who are we? All of those big questions I’ve been thinking about since I was a kid.
I went to work at Bell Laboratories, and at Bell Labs, [there] was enough free time to pursue interests that you had. I continued to follow my interests and started doing experiments on psychic phenomena as part of my free time. Eventually I got the approval to publish some of my work under the imprimatur of Bell Labs.
Later I started giving talks about the work that I was doing, and they caught the attention of people in the US government who were doing classified work using clairvoyance, essentially. They called it ‘remote viewing’ but for espionage.
That was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
After having seen extremely talented remote viewers, actually working, not only in experiments, but also for operational missions or many of the various kinds of agencies out there, that convinced me that not only is the phenomenon quite real, but they’re useful. And if it were possible to have a career where as a scientist, I could study those things, that’s what I wanted to do.
I spent a number of years at Princeton and then went on to later to GTE laboratories. And then I went to the University of Edinburgh where I took over [a] project, finished [it], came back to the United States, went back into academia, spent some time in Silicon Valley, and for the last 21 years now, I’ve been at the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
CC: I would love to hear a little bit more about your work with the government on some of these remote viewing experiments. Were they successful? Is it something that they claim to have shut down or are they still pursuing it?
DR: The best source for information on this program now, most of which is declassified, is a series of four volumes called the Stargate Archives. The Stargate was one of the many code words that were used with a project over the years.
They’re large format, like 600-700 pages each. It’s pretty much all of the research and all of the behind the scenes aspects of how we agencies and the government are actually doing this.
Does it work? Yes. It works. Both in experimental contexts and also more importantly, in operational missions. A mission might be something like a satellite sees a picture of something, and you can’t see inside a building with a satellite and it may have no human intelligence on the ground.
So the team that was doing remote viewing for this project, which was part of the army, they would be tasked with saying, ‘there’s something we want to know about something, tell us about it.’
And what’s really interesting about all this is that in some cases it would be showing a photograph of something like a building and saying what’s going on inside here. But eventually it was learned that you didn’t even need to tell people; that you just give them a series of random letters and numbers and say, ’This is the target of interest. Tell us about it.’
Really good remote viewers somehow can make the psychic connection between a random series of letters and numbers and the thing of interest, and that provided enough useful information so that operations could be done.
As far as I know, there was never an operation that relied solely on this kind of information. In the intelligence world, you never do that. You at least check multiple ways. So this became one additional source of information, especially in projects where there usually wasn’t… much other information.
CC: What are the implications to science as we understand it today, which is driven by materialism and objective reality?
DR: Well, that’s actually one of my primary interests.
What is consciousness — which is related to: who are we? What are we?
You can take many different approaches to that kind of question. You can take a neuroscience approach, and there’s lots being learned there.
You can take a contemplative approach and dive inward and learn about those questions from the subjective perspective.
Now, with quantum mechanics, we do have suggestions because we know that there are connections to transcend space and time. Quantum entanglement, that’s what that does. And we also know that the observer has effects on the physical world.
And so you have two very similar kinds of coincidences here.
Quantum mechanics: a deep physical world is very, very similar to what people report experientially. So we report strange connections to space and time and effects of the observer or intention on the world. And that’s what we see in physics labs.
So the disconnect at this point is we don’t know how to connect human experience to things that we know in physics. We just don’t know how to connect it yet.
So there’s two ways to think about this. One is that materialism simply is inadequate. The second way, though, is that materialism in terms of what we think of as material and as physical has dramatically changed over the past century.
And so it might well be that if physics continues to advance deeper and deeper into the nature of reality, it might start bumping up into what people have called spiritual.
In that case, we will know enough about the nature of the physicality to realize that some aspects of it require consciousness and some aspects of it are involved in awareness.
Things transcend space and time, and all of the sorts of things that mystics have talked about but didn’t have language to translate into terms that we would understand today. So I think that is one direction we could go.
The other one is more towards philosophical idealism, where everything is based on consciousness, all of the physical world and everything else emerges out of consciousness. So when I say that some of my more conservative colleagues say, well, that’s ridiculous [because] we’d have to throw away all the textbooks and start over again.
My response is… textbooks are revised every two years anyway.
And the textbooks that we know and love [on] physics and chemistry and biology and so on, they almost never actually talk about the underlying assumptions.
CC: Do you see a widespread consensus in the scientific community about some of these things in terms of what direction it’s headed potentially?
DR: So what has happened very dramatically differently over the past 30 years is that 30 years ago, the only people talking about consciousness were philosophers. Now you find all of the sciences interested in this and in particular, physics.
So you find physicists and neuroscientists now entertaining the idea of panpsychism, which is a big step in the direction away from pure materialism. You find more and more scientists who are interested in and what is being called post-materialist sciences.
We don’t know exactly what post-materialist science looks like or what the epistemology is necessary in order to actually study these things. The problem [is]… trying to understand what does it feel like to taste a lemon or to have any internal experience. How do we describe that from the external point of view of neuroscience?
Neuroscience sees the jelly in your hand. None of that says anything about what it is like to feel the experience.
So this objective/subjective split is still a big problem, mainly from an epistemological perspective. But more and more scientists, especially younger, [think] there’s something really important about consciousness. It might well be wrapped into the nature of reality itself, and that will no longer be controversial.
Harnessing The Three Types Of Magic
CC: They are great questions and questions that I’ve pondered for many years myself. I could talk about consciousness all day, but I do want to talk about the three types of magic. I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about that and how it relates to what we were just speaking about.
DR: There’s divination, which in today’s world, we can say… that’s perceiving through space and time, which is identical to clairvoyance, remote viewing, precognition.
The second category would be what I would call force of will, which is otherwise known as affirmations, maybe power of positive thinking. And in Paris Psychology would be called psycho-kinetic effects, the idea that your attention and intention can affect aspects of the physical world beyond yourself.
And then the third category is theology. So theology is a Greek word, which roughly means ‘God work,’ which really means the practice of engaging with spirits, entities that are not human and invisible to most people, but engaging with them or communicating with them typically to get them to do something on your behalf.
So of those categories, what science has been able to test are aspects of divination, which we know are correct, aspects of force of will, where the evidence is not quite as good, but there’s still a pretty good evidence that something like that is real, and theology, which so far only been able to test at least in laboratory settings in terms of what mediums claim.
So they claim they deal with spirits and we can at minimum… show information that they get from what they say are spirits is correct. And under conditions where it wasn’t cold reading or any of the other ordinary ways of thinking about it. And then when it comes to things like near death experience and lots of other evidence for survival, which suggests spirits, there’s plenty of that as well.
Focusing Attention With Intention
CC: I’d love to hear you elaborate a little bit on, you had mentioned attention and intention and how those are the practical foundations of what you’re calling real magic.
DR: It’s all about getting very clear what it is that you want. It could be anything, and then affirming that it is so.
So in the magical traditions, there’s lots of methods that have been developed over the years. Creating a sigil, word magic, or magic spells. I mean, grimoires are full of these sorts of things. And all of it is basically a way of motivating your attention.
So you’re paying very close attention to the thing that you want, and then using an intention to kind of spin it into existence.
You go into samadhi, which is a deep state of meditation, but you also need an intentional spin because otherwise it’s like, you’re perceiving the thing that you want, but you’re not going to make it happen.
The making it happen is involved in our intention. Force of will.
So in the books on affirmations, there’s lots and lots of anecdotes that work sometimes spectacularly well. In the laboratory, we do equivalence studies, but usually with much more artificial context, because, you know, somebody might want to go play the Mercedes, but we don’t know how to make that happen in the laboratory.
But what we can do is use a variety of living and non-living physical targets where we know to measure how those targets change. So if it’s a cell culture or a photon or if it’s a random number generator, we know how to measure the behavior of the system.
If we ask somebody to pay very close attention to that physical target with the intention that it does something, we can see if that happens or not.
And so many, many studies, hundreds of different kinds of studies have been done to look at whether or not intention does something of this sort, and the preponderance of evidence is: yeah.
Things move in the direction of people’s will. In the laboratory, the effects that we see are pretty small in magnitude, but because we can do repeated trials with many people in different laboratories, you can gain more and more confidence that what we’re seeing, even though they’re smaller magnitude, they’re actually quite real.
CC: You mentioned briefly, creating a sigil. I’d love to share with our readers your advice for creating one or a specific symbol and how they can use that to achieve a desired goal.
Creating A Sigil To Achieve Your Goals
DR: Well, I give this as an example in my book, Real Magic, mainly because people always want to know, well, ‘how do I do this?’
The idea of the sigil is it’s just a symbol that stands for the thing that you want.
So an easy way to do it is you make a short sentence, which has the words to describe the thing that you want. And you take the letters in that, the first letter of each word, and you turn the letters into a stylized symbol. Very similar to a logo.
For example, it’s taking an idea and squishing it into a picture symbol. In the process of making that symbol, you’re focusing your attention and intention on the task at hand.
That’s the beginning of the process.
Once you have the symbol, there’s very different ways of charging it, so [it’s] called.
So you could do it in a more passive sense where you simply put the symbol some place where you will occasionally see it to remind yourself consciously and unconsciously.
This is what I want. I know what that symbol means.
And [for] more classical, ceremonial magic — what you might do is at the peak of sexual orgasm, you encapsulate that symbol as part of it. So you’re pushing all of this energy into the symbol.
You might do some kind of extreme sports. And in the peak of all of that, that’s when you’ll look at the symbol, all of it is intended to push the energy of your experience into the symbol, and then you release it. So it’s like, you’re banging on something with enough energy so that it will actually go out and do something.
That’s not personally how I like to do it.
What I typically will do is, as I described in the book, that when you’re writing the symbol, you’re creating the symbol, you imagine that the surface of the paper is the universe. It’s the whole universe. And when you’re writing with it, your pen or your pencil is your intention. You’re impressing something into the universe itself and the act of writing it. And then you could release it. You’ve done this high concentration work. You’re thinking about it, you’re writing it. And then you imagine that it’s simply rippling out in the universe and causing little probabilistic changes out there, which will go into the direction of… what you wish to get.
So sometimes you’re really lucky and sigil will work quickly. Usually it takes a while because it depends a lot on what you want to happen. So if what you want to happen is you flip a coin and you want it to land heads, you can make a sigil for that. And then you’ll get pretty quick feedback as to whether or not it worked.
Most people want things that are far more complex, and those take simply longer for the universe to respond — if it responds at all because sometimes it doesn’t want you to have what you think you want.
CC: That’s great advice. If you had any final words of wisdom or advice for our readers. Or if you wanted to talk a little bit about what’s next for you?
DR: Well, when it comes to words of wisdom, the first thing you learn, and this is true in any discipline that you study in any detail is that you don’t really understand what’s going on after all.
That certain things you can get confidence, ‘yeah, this stuff is real.’ When it really comes down to it, what you begin to see, as this line that Terrence McKenna said, ‘as the bonfires of knowledge grow brighter, the more the darkness is revealed to our startled eyes.’
So the more you begin to learn about something, the more you realize, oh, this is much more complicated than I originally thought.
So that is certainly true in the study of psychic phenomena. We’re seeing that, yeah, the basic phenomena are real, but trying to get down to the underlying mechanisms, the more we learn about the nature of the phenomena and how it is deeply tied to psychological issues and the nature of consciousness… we’re way far away from understanding how this stuff works.
So what I am doing next is continuing down this path.