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Section: 39 Ways to Recognize A Cult When You See One

The Prophets Will Pay — With RV's Credibility

by PJ Gaenir, 25 March 1997

The recent tragic 39-person mass suicide in California is, it appears, vaguely related to prophecies based on what some people have called remote viewing.

Nick Matzorkis employed one of the former members of the group, who are web designers. The group sent his employee a farewell videotape announcing their intentions for suicide. Apparently they they believed it was time to "shed their containers," to rendezvous with a UFO they believed was traveling behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

The 39 people were found dressed in black with purple cloth draped over their bodies.

Magician James Randi sent out an email accusing radio personality Art Bell and self-proclaimed remote viewer Ed Dames of, in effect, brainwashing a lot of idiots who took them seriously, and being responsible for their deaths.

On American television, Larry King joined the finger-pointing at Bell's show.

Which is how this ended up at remote viewing's door.


The first of the "cosmic comet companion" was from amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek, who noted on the Art Bell show that he had seen something, the 'what' unknown, beside the comet Hale-Bopp. He had no speculations as to what it was and said he hoped other astronomers would look for it too. Shramek has taken a lot of heat and insult as a result of this, but he did nothing more than make an observation and admitted even at the time that he could be wrong, and hoped professionals would check it out with their superior scopes.

It was Ed Dames's remote viewing student Courtney Brown, PhD who came on the Art Bell show live immediately afterward and presented the results of his "scientific remote viewing," which basically said that a monstrously large hollow planetoid filled with aliens was heading toward Earth, and we would meet them SOON.

Not to be outdone or out-media'd, Ed Dames, with his process called "technical remote viewing," appeared on Art Bell's show soon after that, and agreed there was a companion to the comet, but instead referred to it as a 'hollow metal cylindrical object' which would rain death and destruction via disease upon the earth, wiping out 85% of the world population, and this was supposed to happen SOON.

Dames had been on the show previously with other 'predictions' (things already happening, such as frogs mutating, etc.) and predicting other sorts of doom, such as the mass and widespread deaths of human babies. Brown had been on the show previously, discussing aliens, the Galactic Council/Federation, Buddha, Jesus, Adam and Eve, etc.

Both Dames and Brown have made a point to present their unrelated-to-RV credentials -- Dames as a former Army Major, Brown as a tenured Poli-Sci PhD at Emory University -- as the reason they should be taken seriously with their exuberant and extraordinary claims. Art Bell, who seemed to trust the credentials of a former Major and an Emory PhD, played the subject for all it was worth; however, he demonstrated some skepticism and a personal demand for proof when he later posted on his web site, without permission, a photo presented by Brown to Bell of the "companion" -- which was demonstrated within 24 hours to be fraudulent.

Dames then went on the air with Bell and said that Brown had been wrong because he had altered Dames's "100% accurate" methods of remote viewing; however, Dames stuck to his claims of his own type of 'artificial object accompanying H-B' and his even more horrifying conclusions.


Perhaps getting a little tired of all this, Art Bell invited three other members of the Army intelligence remote viewing unit -- Joe McMoneagle, Lyn Buchanan, and Paul Smith -- on the air March 25th. They pointed out that Dames has created more than one fabrication about his own history, and that he has been preaching one sort of doom or another for years. They mentioned that RV should be pursued, in Buchanan's words, "sanely." Smith pointed out "millenial hysteria" when the subject of these predictions came up. McMoneagle mentioned that these predictions got into ethical considerations when made to the public, and urged the public that in their inquiry into remote viewing, to be 'skeptical,' to question the process, the results, etc. as part of truly scientific inquiry.

Art Bell seemed relieved to have some sense and reason on the show, and did his listeners a real favor by finally presenting "the other side" of -- which is to say, somebody legitimate and credentialed in -- the remote viewing subject.


Since the CIA did its best to discredit and disclaim remote viewing in late 1995, the media hysteria presented by Dames, and then Brown (his student), and then Dames once again (once Brown was discredited) has grown more hyped by the day. Remote Viewers groaned and hoped there would be some credibility left once people like this were done making a name for themselves... and wondered if all this was just what the CIA was hoping for: the ultimate discrediting of the subject, diverting it into easily-controlled cults, and sure to cease any inquiry into its legitimacy and use by most of the more rational public.

On Dames' web site BBS, members have talked of clearing their bank accounts and moving around the world to escape the impending doom. Dames has provided Bell's listeners with advice on where to move to escape the oncoming annihiliation. On Bell's web site you can read letters from a clearly cultish and absolutely faithful following.


Mind you, the 39 suicides had these concepts long before Remote Viewing was ever even heard of. Dames and Brown are probably more guilty of RV'ing archetypes than inventing new ones. Being prophets of a similar mindset does not make them responsible for the suicides.

But the case of the suicides does make us aware of these prophecied, guru-led belief systems in any form, and their danger. (It's about time somebody else began recognizing the cultism in UFOlogy.) It also brings up the question of using 'remote viewing' to hawk these claims. This kind of cultism should be recognized for what it is. Was the Heaven's Gate cult somehow not really a cult until they were dead? Hardly.


Yes, I must say it. I ranted about these guys being cult leaders in effect long ago, but would anybody listen? See "Cult-ivating Charisma" from September 4, 1996.

The media, of course, was far more fond of the well spoken and charismatic Brown and Dames than any of the real or rational names in remote viewing, with the exception of the television show Strange Universe, which presented segments with Buchanan, Smith and McMoneagle; instead of picking up the popular trail of Comet-Riding Aliens or Impending Comet-related Doom, they focused on a non-profit remote viewer group that works with police to help find missing children. Somewhat unusual for media, especially short-segment American TV. Strange Universe plans to air a segment about the mass suicides Monday, March 31 1997. The show can usually be found on local FOX affiliates.

It's unfortunate for Art Bell, known as an intelligent inquirer into anomalies and non-mainstream ideas, that he would end up being part of this due to something said by his guests. In this case, the bizarre nature of the claims and the disinformation has not only hurt RV, but Bell as well. I would certainly not consider impinging on the free speech of my country to save a few self-destructive types from themselves. Even if something said by a Bell guest did influence — or contribute to — a belief system on the part of the Heaven's Gate members, they were adults, and there is an "off" button on that radio for a reason.


Now that this has come up, now that people have finally recognized how cultish this kind of thinking and grouping is, I think it's time to make a case for responsible remote viewing. Remote Viewers and scientists have been trying desperately to get the media and public to listen to reason, and to realize that Dames and Brown were not credible as prophets, and it's damn sad that it probably will take this mass suicide to wake people up and recognize cults when they see them.

Issues surrounding the ethics of RV instruction, and the hypnotic-psychic influence instructors can have on students -- such as Brown, who immediately picked up his instructor's obsessions as his own, at the potential expense of his academic career -- are a subject all to themselves.

Whether or not Brown and Dames influenced these people, whether or not Bell's show had anything to do with this, the reputation of remote viewing, a legitimate and fascinating inquiry and practice, is going to pay. Even though the people making these claims are not recognized as RV experts by anybody but themselves -- and, prior to March 25, Art Bell. Even though remote viewing as it is has nothing to do with this and does not deserve to be represented by this -- not the people and not the claims.


A transcript of the Buchanan/McMoneagle/Smith interview on Art Bell's show is available from Art Bell's page in text format, or in HTML format as a firedoc .


An opportunity to improve individuals and humanity has instead become a bizarre tale, a group cult, and a textbook example of irresponsible individuals and some potentially tragic results.

Before RV gets its own list of tragic losses brought on by cultish environments and belief systems, let's take this to task: let's force the media to recognize what really consitutes credentials in this field, who really has them, and what remote viewing is really about.

I hope somebody remembers that there were voices of reason available in this field all along. It's simply that nobody wanted to listen.

PJ Gaenir

Part of the "Mixin' it Up!" collection
Copyright 1997, PJ Gaenir. All rights reserved.

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