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Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations… (2017)

by Annie Jacobsen

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In Phenomena Annie Jacobsen explores the U.S. government's attempts to harness extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) as tools for spying and gaining an advantage over foreign powers. Russian and Chinese efforts in this arena are also described, but in much less detail. She describes several astounding incidents that are not readily explainable without reference to either ESP or PK, making for interesting reading. Also interesting are the internal political conflicts within governmental agencies and the military based on whether to accept or dismiss the reality and practical utility of ESP and PK. Historically this conflict has been between the sheep, believers in the phenomena, and the goats, the skeptics. In this kind of book the reader is naturally interested in having the conflict between the sheep and the goats resolved in some way, but no satisfactory resolution is forthcoming here.

Jacobsen tends to fall in with the sheep, but without thoroughly examining alternative naturalistic explanations for the phenomena. Skeptic James Randi for example wrote an entire book debunking the abilities of psychic Uri Geller, but Randi's naturalistic explanations are not covered in sufficient detail here. Throughout the book hearsay and anecdotal evidence is brought forth to validate ESP and PK when well controlled experiments, conducted by those familiar with magicians' trickery, are needed instead. The history of the government's work in this area is nonetheless interesting in its own right, making the book worthwhile even in the absence of proof of ESP and PK. ( )
  bkinetic | May 15, 2017 |
Phenomena -The Secret History Of The U.S. Government’s Investigation’s Into Extrasensory Perception & Psychokinesis by Annie Jacobsen is an attempt to catalogue the “definitive history” of the Government’s research into a lot of the paranormal.

Despite the book giving many facts, the information itself isn’t as interesting, nor as incisive as they could be. There are other books that take a much more fascinating and detailed approach than this one.

If you haven’t delved into this topic at all, this book does have some starting points. But if you have reasonable experience researching this abstruse subject, then this is going to fall way below expectations.

For starters, the book could have been written in half the pages without Jacobson being so garrulous. A sizeable amount of the additional information covered just wasn’t necessar. Even if you grant that, the book still doesn’t cover many of the most important historical individuals nor events within this discipline. A few glaring issues are the author merely a cursory glance at the work of Robert Monroe, Ingo Swann and Russell Targ’s work. Also, highly suspicious is the fact that Edwin May, who is a crucial individual in this, is missing as well. If that were it, that would be regrettable enough, but there’s more.

Despite Jacobson using a few hundred sources detailed in the “notes” section, she fails to use proper notation – using none at all! – within the book. It is quite laborious trying to ascertain which footnotes in the back couple to the missing notation in the front. It’s like trying to find a treasure with the entire treasure map having hundreds of x’s all over the place, and all you need is one. If you WANT to delve into this book thoroughly and use this information for research, you would have to expend many hours trying to do what the author failed to do before. Seeing as a plethora of sources were used by the author, why not be a professional and note where each one applies?

Apparently, the author’s other books were great, and I am willing to give this author another chance, but this book fails considerably. It even recently became known to me that this book is being used for a TV series as well, which may or may not have influenced the author’s take on the phenomena.

Taking all into consideration, the inquisitive individual is far better off starting elsewhere on this subject. There are quite a few books out there, one notable being Jim Marr’s Psi Spies, that should be a great starting point for anyone venturing into this subject. Another researcher that’s been doing yeomen’s work into the field of consciousness and paranormal is Tom Campbell. Campbell, who is a former physicist, worked with Robert Monroe in his nascent stages, and has been doing research into much of this for over 30 years. Campbell has a few hundred youtube videos as well, some of which cover this very phenomenal as well.

For what it’s worth, while the author collates much curious data, the book just isn’t as keen as it could be, it’s not the “definitive history” that it was claimed to have and promoted to be, it’s far too garrulous for its own good, and doesn’t even do a decent job at undertaking proper footnotes. Recommend readers to give this book a pass and begin elsewhere.

Make sure to do ample research because there are a LOT of avenues to follow within this entire topic, so be warned. ( )
  ZyPhReX | Apr 26, 2017 |
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Epigraph
There are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind.  In the long run the sword is always beaten by the mind.
 - Napoleon Bonaparte
There are two ways to be fooled.  One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.
 - Sorenson Kierkegaard
Dedication
For Kevin, Finley, and Jett
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(Prologue) This is a book about scientists and psychics with top-secret clearances.
It was May 10, 1941, a day during World War II remembered in the history books for its bizarre links to the supernatural.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316349364, Hardcover)

The definitive history of the military's decades-long investigation into mental powers and phenomena, from the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Pentagon's Brain and international bestseller Area 51.

This is a book about a team of scientists and psychics with top secret clearances.

For more than forty years, the U.S. government has researched extrasensory perception, using it in attempts to locate hostages, fugitives, secret bases, and downed fighter jets, to divine other nations' secrets, and even to predict future threats to national security. The intelligence agencies and military services involved include CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, the Navy, Air Force, and Army-and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Now, for the first time, New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen tells the story of these radical, controversial programs, using never before seen declassified documents as well as exclusive interviews with, and unprecedented access to, more than fifty of the individuals involved. Speaking on the record, many for the first time, are former CIA and Defense Department scientists, analysts, and program managers, as well as the government psychics themselves.

Who did the U.S. government hire for these top secret programs, and how do they explain their military and intelligence work? How do scientists approach such enigmatic subject matter? What interested the government in these supposed powers and does the research continue? Phenomena is a riveting investigation into how far governments will go in the name of national security.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 03 Jan 2017 18:16:16 -0500)

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