Remote Viewing

A General Overview

What is remote viewing?

Sounds pretty simple? But wait....

The term "Remote Viewing" has one definition with two separate parts to it.  The first part of the definition say it is:  

The process of acquiring information about a person, place, thing or event which may be distant in time or space, when that information could not be accessible to one through any known means.

Sounds just like psychic work, doesn't it?

The second part of the definition is the groundwork for the first part.  Remote viewing is technically:  

A certain type of psychic or "ESP" process, defined as Remote Viewing instead of ESP by the fact that it is done within a certain protocol.

There are rules with RV, and those rules are there to ensure that the information one is obtaining could not be accessible to the psychic through any known means. 

These rules, taken as a set, are called the "Protocol."

The protocol exists to validate the definition of Remote Viewing. If you are doing psi work within an approved protocol, it is certain that you are not obtaining data through any means other than psi.

In layman's terms, remote viewing is "psychic work." The protocol does not effect one being psychic; it doesn't actually have much to do with the psychic process itself; rather, it affects the situation one is being psychic within.

There are also "methods" for gathering psychic information that many employ in conjunction with the RV protocol, and as slang, refer to simply as 'remote viewing.'

How you go about obtaining psychic information—the process and "how-to"—are methods. Some people teaching "remote viewing" call their methods "protocols" (because it is their own set of 'rules'). This can be confusing at times. The methods have nothing to do with the real RV protocol.

You can use any given method, but if you do not use it within an approved RV protocol, your psychic work does not qualify as remote viewing--it is simply psychic work. Psychic methods of many kinds, and good psychics, have been around since the dawn of time. It is remote viewing--meaning the science protocol and approach to psychic work--which is recent.

The most well-known psi method related to RV is Coordinate or Controlled RV ("CRV"), compiled by Ingo Swann in the early 1980's. These were designed to be used within the formal remote viewing protocol, which is why they were named a form of 'remote viewing.'

How is remote viewing different from regular "psychic" stuff?

The way the term "Remote Viewing" is designed, it represents a  process—not a thing.  You technically are only remote viewing if you do psychic work within an approved RV protocol. If you are doing anything else, you are just "being psychic." (Which is fine, on its own merits, it just isn't RV.)

The main difference between people who are referred to (legitimately) as "remote viewers" and those who are simply called "psychics" is the knowledge of, and willingness to abide by, the required scientific rules (protocol) for RV.

Many psychics learn the protocol, follow it, and can legitimately call themselves remote viewers.  Many 'remote viewers' don't bother using the scientific RV protocol, in which case, they really don't have the right to call themselves RVrs, no matter what method they are using, and should call themselves psychics.

Today, many psychics (and people who want to be) use the term "Remote Viewing" as if it is a generic description of clairvoyance. To them, it is: they feel it means "visual psi data about something remote from you." (And I must admit, that's exactly what the term sounds like!)

But to the people who invented the term, there were already lots of terms for "being psychic." They didn't need one more. The "Remote Viewing" term was developed because what was needed was a term to describe being psychic within that certain set of rules (protocol). So when a scientist said they had done a remote viewing experiment, all other scientists would know exactly what they meant. It's unfortunate they chose such a descriptive term. Later scientists invented the term "anomalous cognition," which they hope the public will be less fond of.

Most of this sounds like semantics. The reason it is important to make a distinction between psychic work and remote viewing work is because there is a certain respectability (or should be) carried with real remote viewing work. The protocol ensures that charlatans, mentalists, and any other people pretending to be psychic--or who, in innocence of the many other ways to obtain data, may simply think they are being psychic--cannot function properly within an approved protocol. All potential sources of information are cut off from them. If you work within an approved protocol and you get correct data, it is going to be because you were truly demonstrating psi ability.

The normal experiences that people go through in psychic development also follow the curve of learning 'remote viewing.'

As for psychics vs. remote viewers, one is not better than the other.  Many psychics are tremendously gifted, and some so-called "natural psychics" are better than most "trained" remote viewers will ever be.  But technically, all people, including remote viewers, are "natural psychics." The question is simply "to what degree?"

Innate talent is the key to a person's success in either approach to gathering psi data. For those considered 'psychics,' it is very useful to learn the remote viewing protocol.  There are very good reasons for its development, and understanding them would make many 'natural psychics' more effective. 

It may also be useful to learn at least one methodology that many psychics have found useful. The CRV methodologies for example were developed to deal with many problematic issues that psychics face when collecting data, and understanding these ways of avoiding or dealing with problems can be invaluable to a psychic, even if the methods are used merely as education, rather than a framework for working in. 

The bottom line in any comparison is the quantity of data; the quality of that data; and the dependability of that individual to collect any given kind of psi data.  Only hard facts (feedback) to compare your results to can tell you how accurate your data is. Since the RV protocol requires that someone receive feedback about the actual target, the ability to properly judge accuracy is usually available.

A little about the U.S. government's project

In the early 1970's, the CIA decided to fund a small research project into the existence of human "psychic" abilities.  Noted psychic Ingo Swann participated in the first (and other) trials for these studies. Psychic Pat Price later joined the trials as well, and based on these results many other government, military, industrial and private groups provided funding over time. 

Taken in one view, the "government" program for the research and/or application of psychic (in this case, "remote viewing") abilities lasted [officially] for 17 years, beginning in late 1978. The program was owned and funded by a variety of groups and organizations. The program changed ownership, names, etc. many times. In 1995 the program was finally transferred to the CIA, who closed it down four months later.

The scientific research of RV

Dr. Harold Puthoff founded the formal research program in 1972 at SRI (Stanford Research Institute, now SRI International).  About a year later Russell Targ joined the team. In 1976, Dr. Ed May joined the team.  In 1982, Targ left SRI, and in 1985, Puthoff left SRI--from that point until the project(s) ended, Dr. May ran the research program.  In 1991, Dr. May's Cognitive Sciences Laboratory (CSL), which had been working via SRI, moved to SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation — another think tank/science lab) and continued funded research there until the end of 1995, when government funding ceased. (CSL is still an active lab doing research, but the government financial backing is no longer present.)

The first 'discovery' about RV was made right at the beginning: that these psychic abilities existed.  Remote Viewing protocol evolved over time, as scientists (and skeptics, who provided input) refined, tightened and learned about the experimental process.  As time went on, more was learned about how the process of being psychic seemed to work, and how data seemed to affect the people getting it.  Innumerable physiological and psychological tests were run on the psychics doing the data collection.  At times, mass-testing of volunteers to find good psychics was done. 

Different "methods" of getting psychic data, from traditional "psychic methods" to Swann's invented "CRV" methods (which came later) were tested themselves and against each other, to find common denominators in what made psychic ability work, what people were most likely to have the ability, etc.  The later research also covered a lot of details about the type of data people were likely to get, the type of targets that people were more likely to be able to describe accurately, potential physics theories as to the reasons why these things were so, and so on.  How the experiments were done, and even the methods the psychics used, varied, and changed over time. 

Along the way, as much was learned about the science of psychic studies as about psi itself, and parapsychology science (a term invented at CSL is "anomalous cognition," which some people now use to describe remote viewing) is now some of the most tightly-controlled science around.

Only a couple of the people involved with the psychic side of the scientific research are currently public and willing to discuss remote viewing.  Estimates are that about half the scientific research done until 1995 is classified by the U.S. Government (and others who funded it). 

The military intelligence application of RV

In 1978, a number of psychics were recruited by the U.S. military to begin a small but intense effort toward using psychic ability to answer questions that government and military intelligence agencies had.  Some questions are not easy to answer through physical spies or radio satellites, and so it was hoped that psychics might be able to come up with some of the pieces to the puzzle. The unit began with half a dozen people, and at its largest seldom had more than a dozen people at any one time.  Eventually it was a mix of military and civilian intelligence personnel.

The psychics in the unit often worked under the "remote viewing" protocol, and some were familiar with the scientific research as well, and so the personnel in the unit were referred to as "remote viewers."  Early recruiting techniques were based on what had been learned in the science lab regarding people likely to be good at this work, as well as screening and testing.  The psychics who founded the unit were successful on many occasions, and the unit's abilities generated more interest, and more tasking from every known government agency. 

Later recruiting techniques were different. Over time the unit's personnel changed, and after some years of the unit's existence, psychic methods that Ingo Swann had compiled were taught to the people in the unit, as one more means of doing this kind of psychic work. 

Of the unit's 17 years in existence, less than half a dozen of the personnel from it are currently public and willing to discuss remote viewing.  Another half-dozen are still doing classified work, but sometimes participate in internet or private RV projects under pseudonyms.

In 1995 the CIA announced they were declassifying the program (a revelation which in fact violated contracts with dozens of different agencies and organizations), but as of this writing (mid-1998), former unit members estimate that nearly all the operational work is still classified and, despite some data sure to be released, probably always will be.

What are the different "types" of remote viewing?

Different terms for some scientifically studied Remote Viewing approaches


The Ganzfeld approach to remote viewing uses a mild form of sensory deprivation, in the hope that minimizing input from the world around the psychic or remote viewer will maximize their ability to sense subtle input from their subconscious/psi. Usually the psychic is reclining or lying down. Halved ping-pong balls are placed over the eyes, and the room has a dim red light. White noise is usually played through a speaker. Ganzfeld RV data often seems a bit more 'dreamy' than data obtained via other methods. This may be due to the rather hypnagogic nature of the methodology.

"Outbounder" or "Beacon"

The Outbounder approach to remote viewing uses a second person as a 'beacon' for the psychic or remote viewer. The viewer sits in a room in a building with no windows, and the outbounder individual leaves the building, gets in a car and drives around randomly for a specified period of time. Then the outbounder opens a sealed envelope with directions to the target site. At an appointed time, the outbounder is to be standing at the target site taking note of his surroundings. The viewer's job is to describe the surroundings of the outbounder. This is one example of an approach that probably invokes as much "telepathy" as it does "clairvoyance."


Associative remote viewing is not a methodology or a type of protocol, but rather is a type of tasking for a given RV project. Usually associative RV is used for binary-type targets (where there is a choice of two (not more than three) outcomes or answers), and these types of targets are often also a form of precognitive work. The tasker "associates" three specific targets with the possible outcomes in question. When tasked, the Viewer's description will (it is hoped) match one of those targets clearly enough for the tasker to conclude an answer. For example, if the target is the rise or fall of the price of sugar on the commodities market tomorrow, the tasker may assign "Niagara Falls" to a "fall" answer, "the Eiffel Tower" to a "rise" answer, and "the grand canyon" to "other" (such as, stays the same, the stock market is closed that day, or any other potential). The viewer is tasked with, "Describe the target." If the Viewer's description can be correlated with one of the predefined associated targets, that is what the analyst or tasker would take as the psi-derived "answer."

In the case of both Outbounder and Associative remote viewing, these approaches could be used in conjunction with most any psychic methodology.

Psychic Methodologies often used in conjunction with the Remote Viewing Protocol

"Controlled" (formerly "Coordinate") remote viewing (CRV)

In the early 1980's, about a decade after Ingo Swann and others coined the term "remote viewing," Swann compiled a set of psychic methods which he felt addressed the major and important aspects of psychic work. These methods were designed to be used within the RV protocol, and as such, were referred to as as form of remote viewing. Based heavily on the work of French researcher Rene Warcollier, and combining many theories and findings from research in a wide variety of scientific fields, the Swann methods are a step-by-step "how-to" for communicating the data one receives via psi. The methods are utilized while sitting at a table and writing or sketching data. They are notable in that they are done in a far more "alert" state than many other approaches to psi.

"Extended" remote viewing (ERV)

One of the more common "natural psychic" means of "getting in touch with a target" is similar to the Ganzfeld approach, but without the technology. In this instance, usually the psychic reclines or lies down comfortably in a dim or darkened room, and another individual (an 'interviewer' or 'monitor') asks them questions and records the data they verbally provide. Prior to finishing their session they attempt to sketch their impressions. This has probably been a method used by psychics throughout time. In the later years of the US Army intelligence unit that utilized remote viewing, once CRV (above) had become a standard methodology, the "natural psychic" way of going about things was coined a name, mostly to separate it from CRV.

All methods I have encountered which proponents consider related to "remote viewing" are derivatives or offshoots of CRV or ERV. In all legitimate "remote viewing," working within the protocol is necessary, regardless of what type of data one is aiming for, or what type of method or process one is utilizing.

What determines how good a person is at remote viewing?

First, innate talent.  A great deal of scientific, medical and psychological study has been done on this subject.  There may be certain markers of persons most likely to be good at it, but not too many. Psychology, willingness to accept the process and results, is a very big factor.

Practice.  Regardless of how talented somebody is naturally, the point of any psychic work is to properly communicate what you are perceiving. A great deal of the accuracy, quality, quantity and consistency of a remote viewer's work can be improved by the viewer better understanding themselves and the process. Psi data is often obtained via personal symbology and many other factors which are highly subjective, and can probably only be learned and understood in the context of the individual.

As for people who do not feel they are naturally talented, although there is no known way of "making" a person psychic, most people are far more psychic than they realize—nearly everybody who begins RV has surprisingly good results compared to what they expected to be able to do. (Most people before methods training are sure they will be the exception and fail, and are happily surprised to find that isn't so.) Regular RV practice, with the documentation mentioned above, tends to do three important things for everybody:

(1) It makes the process of 'opening up' to that data more recognizeable and easier to call on command;
(2) It makes the process of communicating the data be subject to improvement and fewer mistakes; and
(3) It makes the individual more comfortable with psi and a bigger believer in his or her own abilities, and this alone can improve results.

For people who are already practicing as "natural psychics," learning the basics of an approved RV protocol, and maybe even a few basics of the Swann methodology, can be very useful.

For people who don't have any idea where to begin on this "being psychic" process, learning an RV methodology of any kind can provide a jumping-off point.

How long does it take to learn to remote view?

That depends on whether you want to add "....well" to the end of that sentence.

You can learn about an RV protocol in about half an hour.

You can learn most of the CRV or ERV methodology in a few days or a week, if you just sat down and went through the terms and how-to's.

Persons experienced and established as successful in this subject say that remote viewing is best compared to a mental martial art, and has about the same necessary intensity, time and learning curve.  That means about 2-3 years of daily serious practice, or about 5-6 years of part-time practice, and always, a serious and attentive approach to the time invested. 

Like martial arts, the intensity one puts in, the availability of someone experienced to answer questions or provide insight, and the precision one applies to the study, make a difference in both quality of skill and time to achieve a certain skill level.  Like martial arts, you can learn a method (a "style"), you can even learn from a book or videotape, but actually working within that style long enough to be good at it is another story.

This is probably best described as, it takes that long "to reach an ability-peak of your level of operant talent."  That talent (and how it manifests) may be of different strength, and different style, for each individual.

There is no guarantee that everybody can be taught to be a good remote viewer. You can be taught a psychic methodology. You can be taught the protocol. And you can practice until you really understand yourself better and communicate whatever data you obtain very well. But the bottom line is going to come down to your ability to obtain the psi data in the first place. There is no way to know what your true level of talent is until you try.

What about remote viewing training?

RV training—at least, the origin of the concept—refers mostly to "psychic methodologies" developed to be used in conjunction with the RV protocol. 

Since the topic of remote viewing became popularized in the press in 1995, many people have adopted the term remote viewing to describe whatever they want it to. You may hear remote viewing referred to as when you use a certain psychic methodology. (This is always 'required' to be the methodology of the people claiming to own 'remote viewing', of course!) Or, some people would just rather call "whatever it is they are doing" remote viewing, because they like that term better than the term 'psychic.' It is becoming the catch-phrase of the 90's.

Some people have dramatically revised or invented their own "psychic methodology," which they use completely independent of any form of approved RV protocol. At this point, almost any claim to the RV name, history, or RV reputation—or even the original RV-based psi methodologies—is, at best, "remote."

If you are interested in training in one of the psychic methodologies designed to be used within the RV protocol, such as Ingo Swann's Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV), I would be happy to refer you to a legitimate instructor. Send me email with your inquiry, and let me know your background (if any) in psi work and your geographic location.

What does methods training entail?

What RV methods training includes will vary with the instructor.  Most RV methods training does not address the actual protocol that defines RV; the methods are a "how-to" for going about acquiring psychic data, which is a different aspect of remote viewing. The formal RV protocol is not something that would require an entire course, though; a little bit of online reading can teach you some basics of it.

For the most part, RV methods training will teach you a method.  It won't teach you the science, and it may or may not teach you the follow-on military developments in methodology, or in some cases the original Swann "theories" related to RV, or in some cases Viewer Profiling, or other useful parts of an overall program of remote viewing. (Some of this information can be found online.) But it WILL teach you a step by step method for collecting and communicating psychic data. How it works, how well, etc. depends on the method and the psychic—that's you.

If you have no idea where to start, learning a method is a good idea.  You don't have to use it forever. The best advantage to a method is that when you focus on the process, you are more inclined to allow yourself the talent, and when you practice doing it every day, you begin to believe in yourself and your ability. Once you get to the point where 'tuning into yourself' is comfortable and you are in the habit of practicing and documenting your results, you are free to do what you will with the methods, or make up your own. Documentation of your history and current sessions (your Viewer Profile) will tell you immediately what is working for you and what isn't.

Can you learn to "remote view" without training?

For those who cannot afford the invariably expensive methods training, and/or who'd just like to learn a little more about remote viewing, I always suggest RVr Joseph McMoneagle's book "Mind Trek: Exploring Consciousness, Time and Space Through Remote Viewing." It offers information on the RV protocol, advice on types of targets, practicing, and a lot of personal information and examples about his own experience learning remote viewing.  Joe's one of the best in the world (and if we only count those working in public, the best), so his advice is worth reading. A number of other references can be found sprinkled liberally throughout the Firedocs web site.

Have a question?

If necessary, I'm always happy to answer questions from the public.  If I don't know the answer (and I am not the ultimate expert of course), I can ask somebody who does, and get back to you with an answer. I'll add any new questions to the "Q&A" page on the Firedocs site.


PJ Gaenir
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