Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review of Targ: Memoirs of a Blind Biker

Reviewed by Hannah Jenkins, PhD

A generation of parapsychologists are starting to retire. Fortunately for us, instead of working on their golf swing, some of them are jotting down memories. Do You See What I See?: Memoirs of a Blind Biker, another recent personal account of a life involved with psi research, is by Russell Targ, the physicist legend of remote viewing, co-author (with Harold Putoff) of the influential Mind Reach and, we discover, an avid motorcyclist despite being legally blind.

The book starts with a description of a quintessential post-war, European-influenced Chicago/New York childhood. It then goes on to tell us about his studies, early career, marriage, fatherhood, move to California, divorce, motorcycle riding and other loves. There's much to keep us interested on both personal and professional fronts: Bobby Fisher (the eccentric chess player) was his brother-in-law, and at work during breaks at NASA conferences he had quiet talks about ESP with the likes of Werner von Braun, Edgar Mitchell and Arthur C. Clarke. But Targ is no mere name dropper. The stories are informed by his thoughtful philosophical approach to life, namely, that ‘yes, things happen, but we give them all the meaning they have for us.’ All the major milestones of a life, the negatives and positives, are presented with great candor in very readable, engaging prose.

There is also an absorbing account of the ups and downs of his professional life as both an engineer for Lockheed and scientist specializing in ESP. His professional life was a delicate balance between mainstream and psi research. Many of those involved in the latter will identify with the problems he manages to overcome: he was successful at both. It's an edifying story, especially when you consider he had serious health issues to contend with for most of his life. Remarkably there’s never a hint of self pity in the writing, even when he relates the tragic death of his daughter Elizabeth Targ.

He's apparently undaunted by life challenges that would throw many off course. And though his tone does sometimes have a suggestion of 'look what I did!' he's reflective enough to acknowledge this and aware that his upbringing as an only child and early illnesses have had a profound, and mostly positive, impact on his confident and resilient approach to life.

For those engaged with psi research, the book becomes especially interesting when he expands on his contributions to ESP experiments. Russell Targ was involved in some of the seminal moments of psi research over the last four decades and was close to many other psi researchers who have also profoundly influenced the field. One of them is Charles T. Tart who wrote the forward to The Blind Biker. He describes Russell Targ's contribution to psi research as the ‘battery development pioneer’ and lauds him for bringing elusive real life psi into a more moderate, but reliable, scientifically useful form.

Although there is much that is already on the public record, it is fascinating to get the personal inside story of the developments which have informed current psi research. Some have attained legendary status, for instance the activities of the Delphi Group. But did you know that the documentary describing the silver commodities stock prediction experiments has disappeared from the archives of the production company who made it? Or that the group once received a $320,000 contract with Atari to design and build an ESP video game? And he outlines the development of remote viewing. I won't repeat the details here as it's worth reading from his perspective, especially the theories about Pat Price. The stories reveal an innovative approach to the development of practical applications for psi and one wonders if we need to up the stakes of current research to match the efforts of researchers from his era.

I highly recommend Do You See What I See?: Memoirs of a Blind Biker as an inspiring story which will be of interest to those outside psi research as much as those in it.

Hannah Jenkins, PhD

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