— Edgar Mitchell, US Navy Officer, pilot of Apollo 14
by Julia Mossbridge, PhD with John Vivanco
For hundreds of years, scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have quietly used intuition to help them be creative and make discoveries. But intuition does not belong only to one type of person. Intuition is our birthright as human beings. Based on the idea that intuition may be able to save us when it seems nothing else can, scientists and intuitives have been working together to discover whether intuition can save the planet. This is our story.
As so often happens with offbeat projects in the world of weird science, this one began when a private donor showed up with a really cool idea. Geoff Oelsner, a supporter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, had been working with several science-friendly intuitives and climate scientists to try to find solutions for global climate change. Oelsner feels compelled to work with people who are well-positioned to get the earth’s ecosystems back on a healthy track.
Because he was interested in how intuition could help save the planet, Oelsner came to the Positive Precog Consortium group. This is a so-called “mental time travel” project of TILT: The Institute for Love and Time led by an intuitive scientist (the primary author) and a scientific intuitive (the supporting author). What is a mental time travel project? It’s a project that draws on the human ability to intuitively imagine the past or the future in order to retrieve useful information for use in the present. One component of mental time travel is “precognition,” which is specifically focused on retrieving information about future events. A “precog” was the name given to intuitives with precognition abilities who tried to predict crimes in the movie Minority Report, so we call a “positive precog” someone who attempts to use precognition to benefit the world.
Oelsner explained to those of us in the Positive Precog Consortium that he had previously funded a collaborative project with a climate scientist and a well-known military-trained intuitive to investigate a possible approach to mitigating human-produced climate change. The results from that previous project were not conclusive, and they had not made their way back into the scientific community. This outcome was predictable given the taboo among scientists against talking about the value of intuition, even though scientists rely on their intuition every day. As a result of this past experience, Geoff had learned to involve climate scientists from the beginning of such a controversial project.
The initial study Oelsner had funded was conducted in an “unblinded” fashion — the intuitive knew what questions were being asked, and therefore his own bias could have influenced the answers. This would have been true for any intuitive who knew the questions — and remained true for the particular intuitive who performed the original study, even though he is certainly among the world’s best at precognition, with abilities verified in multiple scientific publications.
Aware of a few other studies using intuitive information to address scientific and public health questions, we knew there were two problems with those studies. In addition to the intuitives knowing the questions they were being asked, the results were also reported after-the-fact. When the intuitives came up with insights that were later found to match actual solutions to scientific problems, like when an intuitive announced the number of a chromosome with genes influencing bipolar disorder, these results were not reported until after scientists made the discovery on their own. The problem with this approach is the public doesn’t learn about potential solutions to scientific and health questions until after those solutions are already verified. We didn’t like that approach for two reasons: first, it makes intuitives look like they’re always right (they’re not), and second, it makes intuition look like it’s not useful for practical purposes in real-time (it is).
Putting together these past lessons, John and I worked with Geoff to find two atmospheric scientists with an interest in climate change who were willing to be part of a transparent and practical study in which we agreed to take the abilities of skilled intuitives seriously. We used mental time travel to brainstorm new approaches to understanding and trying to heal the earth’s climate. We wrote up the results of our first study, and these results are under review in a peer-reviewed journal so we won’t reveal them in detail here. But even before that paper goes to press, we felt it important to speak to non-academics about what we found — and to briefly describe the results of a second study not included in that academic paper. We want to release this information while it can be useful.
The Positive Precog Consortium (PPC) members — they go by the “super-secret” code names Butterfly, Coyote, 4M, Rid, Spark, Whalerider, and Woody — didn’t know what questions they were being asked to record their future intuitions about. The questions were assigned after the PPC members did their intuitive work. We used this “precognitive protocol” because it’s a tried-and-true approach well-known and well-researched by U.S. military and intelligence organizations, and because it avoids the problem of the intuitive’s biased ideas about the answers to questions getting in the way of receiving useful information.
How does this work? No one knows, but as a scientist, I have to tell myself some kind of mechanistic story. So the story I tell myself is that intuition is guided by intention. Good intuitives who can work with a precognitive protocol are skilled at intending to address the question that will be asked of them in the future. So how does that work again? Ummmmm…..well, again, I don’t know anyone who knows. But with skilled intuitives, it works at a rate above chance. In other words, blind judges who don’t know what the question was can match the information provided by skilled intuitives to the correct question (and not match it with other potential questions) more often than you’d expect by chance. One of my life’s goals is to figure out how this form of mental time travel works, but another goal is to put it to good use — and that practical goal is what both studies were about.
For example, in our first study, one of the 10 questions we asked was, “Assuming we solve climate change in the future, describe the most crucial piece of information or technology needed to do so, so we can potentially take action in this direction.” We took all the intuitives’ information and arbitrarily assigned a subset of that information to this question (to learn more about this admittedly complex and weird process, please see the upcoming article which will be linked here when it becomes available). Then we analyzed the information in light of what we knew about each intuitive.
Example: Woody is an artist and a stand-up comic, so he uses cartoons and stories to communicate intuitive information. After making the intention to answer the question he would learn about in the future, he wrote a story about little pieces of things like monopoly pieces, falling out and rearranging themselves in a good way; he drew cartoons that looked like cells.
Example: Rid is a professor who teaches behavioral economics — he described these starburst-like entities, small, alive, silica-based, connected on some kind of flexible sheet.
Each of the intuitives did the same — reaching into the substrata of sub-/supra-/un-/consciousness to pull out information that could be useful. They knew it wasn’t up to them to determine what made sense or answered the question. It was up to them to pull up whatever wanted to be spotlighted for each particular question.
Our project’s co-leader, John Vivanco, has learned over decades of training and practice how to interpret one intuitive’s scribbles as metaphorical and another’s as literal. He knows what to ignore and what to highlight. In the 1990s John led the first self-sustaining intuitive consulting firm (Transdimensional Systems), who worked with the FBI after the 9/11 attacks to determine whether structural irregularities existed under the Twin Towers. He trained me to analyze intuitive data, and I caught on quickly, having spent much of my time in perceptual psychology and neuroscience labs during my graduate and post-doctoral years. Together we came up with some answers after poring over the intuitive data. We brought these answers to the atmospheric scientists to ask if the answers made sense to them.
For example, related to the question described above, for various reasons we interpreted the intuitives’ data as showing us that collaboration with living microscopic animals may turn out to be one of the most effective ways humans can help manage climate change and create a renewable energy resource. The answers to the other questions, many of which were about alternative forms of climate mitigation, clearly seemed to indicate that not collaborating with living things would be a non-starter. These general recommendations were confirmed in a second study — with the additional finding that intuitives seem to keep telling us that clouds act as electrical capacitors, and electrical capacitance within them has a lot more to do with cloud formation than atmospheric scientists currently think.
The atmospheric scientists on the team, who wish to remain anonymous, found the whole project fascinating. They knew that we weren’t trying to prove that intuition was the only factor at play here. After all, together we analyzed the data according to what we thought made sense, given what we knew. The intuitive data could be seen as a Rorschach blot to stimulate creativity in the interpretations. The atmospheric scientists saw things in the intuitives’ drawings and descriptions that surprised them: “Hey, that looks like a cross-section of the tropopause!” one of them exclaimed when seeing an intuitive’s drawing addressing the outcomes of putting sulfuric compounds in the lower atmosphere.
So what did we actually achieve? In addition to the apparent request from the positive precogs to partner with non-human living organisms to address climate change, a request we interpreted from the data they provided when they did not even know the specific questions being asked of them, the atmospheric scientists came away with some testable hypotheses related to cloud condensation nuclei. They can use computer models and existing satellite data to check to see if these hypotheses hold water. Within the time frame of the two studies, one of the climate scientists told us a paper had been published supporting an idea that came up in the first set of answers from intuitives — that the Antarctic is an important place to consider cloud formation when thinking about climate change mitigation. There also seemed to be some potentially insightful but admittedly weird hints about possible alternative energy sources.
Aside from these outcomes, I suspect the most important outcome is that the whole team, including and especially the positive precogs, felt that one piece was missing. We had done a lot of intuitive reception, analysis, and brainstorming. We’d even done a little science. But at the end of these two studies, we felt more compelled than ever to move toward directly connecting with the planet. We wanted to touch, feel, and heal that connection between people and our home. The best part is, it takes no special skill or training to do this — just awareness, love, and hope.
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