Ingo Swann and Paul H. Smith
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Why “Remote Perception”?

I rarely argued with my mentor, Ingo Swann. When I did, it was sometimes unpleasant, but more often it was educational—even on the few occasions when in the end we still disagreed. A mild one of those arguments happened over the phone in April 2002, while I was working on my first book and trying to make sure I had things straight about how remote viewing got its name.  And we didn’t disagree, exactly. But…well, you’ll see.

There was, and sometimes still is confusion about where the term “remote viewing” came from. Many sources mistakenly credit Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ. The two did, of course have a lot to do with remote viewing’s early development, but they didn’t come up with its name. Others sometimes get the credit instead. But these days most people who know about remote viewing are aware that both the process and the term originated with Ingo Swann.

At the time of our 2002 conversation, though, I wanted to make absolutely sure my facts were straight, since a recent debate in an online forum had sown a bit of confusion about it. After a few preliminaries, I broached the subject, asking exactly where and how the remote viewing term originated. “It originated with me,” Ingo responded emphatically, almost before I could finish.

I explained that it was my understanding from earlier conversations that at the time, back in 1971, when he and his fellow researchers were debating about what to call it, one of them, Janet Mitchell, had suggested “remote viewing.” He quickly set me straight.

The first-ever remote viewing experiments were a series of attempts under double-blind conditions (neither researcher nor viewer knowing what the correct answer was) to describe the current weather in far away cities, and it was this sort of experimental protocol they needed a name for. “I said, this is…this is trying to see what the weather was like in distant cities,” Ingo explained, “and I said, those are remote, so we should call it remote viewing”—remote, “because it’s not the same as doing clairvoyance into the next room or so forth.”

His colleagues weren’t thrilled at first with Ingo’s suggestion, so they explored other options. “We almost went with remote sensing,” he continued. “But I said, well, I get visuals.”

Still reluctant, they considered a few other options before finally admitting defeat and settling for Ingo’s choice, “remote viewing.” To guarantee that I would have it straight, he wrapped it up in his typical colorful style: “It’s my f__ing term, and anybody who tries to wiggle out of it is just a freak!” (To keep this blog family-friendly, in the future I’ll replace such color with “[…].”)

Up to this point, I’ve mostly summarized our conversation. But in what follows I’m going to quote at more length.

Paul:  In [a] previous conversation you said somebody came up with the idea of “remote perception.” And that didn’t fly—I don’t remember why…?

Ingo: Because…perception’s not a thing in itself. Perception is a process. And I already knew that from…studying art. It’s…a process that begins in the subconscious, sends a pulse up through the liminal threshold, and if the pulse is strong enough, then it will turn into a perception. All perceptions are simulations of what the electronic signals are showing. Even our eyesight. We’re not looking “out there,” we’re looking at a simulation in our head—a mental image picture.

I made a few small comments, and then he continued.

Ingo: So I knew that…you can’t call it remote perception. I mean, that’s a…that thing where one word cancels out the other words [Note: I think the word he was looking for in this sentence was “contradiction,” or perhaps “non sequitur”]. People don’t know what words are. That’s why they […] around! I complained about that when you were out at SRI. You’ve got to have the right configuration. And the right configuration, if you have it, has to have the right words.

Ingo was big on the importance of using words precisely, and he went on at length about their importance. By the end of our phone call, I was happy to let the topic of remote viewing versus remote perception go. I had got as definitive a statement as I was going to get on where “remote viewing” had come from, and Ingo was clearly not going to tolerate anything other than that to describe the process he had created. I had no desire to try to persuade him otherwise, anyway. At the time I was still satisfied enough with the terminology not to want to rock the boat.

Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne

Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne

Of course, both Ingo and I knew that “remote perception” was already being used to label a process similar (or even identical) to some of the early SRI remote viewing work. Dr. Robert Jahn and Ms. Brenda Dunne were using “precognitive remote perception” (PRP) at their Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory at Princeton University. The only real difference between the 1970s-era Puthoff/Targ/Swann approach was that the targets for PRP were remote-viewed before the target was even selected (more about that as a subject for a later post).

Remote perception was not a term Jahn and Dunne had newly invented, either.  As early as 1975 Dr. Elizabeth Rauscher had used “remote perception” in writing up an experiment that tried to replicate Puthoff & Targ’s work.

If you think about it, it is pretty clear why the “remote perception” would be an attractive alternative name for “remote viewing.” In my lectures and interviews, and even when orienting new students in my courses I encounter folks who misunderstand what a remote viewing experience is like. The confusion comes from the“remote viewing” term itself.  Upon hearing those two words together (and often reinforced by stories of remote viewing experiences from others) novices often think their experience will be fully visual; that they will literally “see” cars or houses or giraffes or volcanoes or the Eiffel Tower or whatever they might be targeted at, much (as I often say about Hollywood’s misconception of psychic phenonmena) “like a video in the head.”

But that is not how it actually happens. Especially early in any given remote viewing experience, you don’t actually “see” a concrete, definable image in your mind. In fact, if you do see such an image, you will usually discover that it was a mistaken picture, offered up by your analytic mind desperate to give you an answer to what it thinks you were “looking” for. Instead, the “viewing” part of the experience involves impressions of colors, qualities of light (that is, things like “dark,” “shadowy,” “bright,” “sparkling,” etc.), and bits and pieces of shapes and lines.

To be sure, remote viewers can on occasion receive well-formed mental ideas of the target that turn out to be correct. But in the sense that people often understand it,“viewing” might not describe what actually happens at all—and yet accurate perceptions result. This becomes even more of a question when you consider what else accompanies the remote viewing experience. Not only do you have these vision-related tidbits that pop into your mind, but as a remote viewer goes through the process, bits of smell, taste, tactile, and sound experiences also arise. In the explanation of remote viewing I wrote years ago for the International Remote Viewing Association’s website, I used the idea of  “cocktail” to explain this:

…remote viewing is not precisely one thing, but rather an integrated “cocktail” of various phenomena. Despite the “viewing” part of the term, remote viewing is only partly about experiences associated with what might be visible about a target. It also involves mental impressions pertaining to the other senses, such as sounds, tastes, smells, and textures, as well as limited telepathy-like effects, and in some cases just plain intuitive “knowing.”

 I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds a lot like perception in general, seeing as how nearly every element of perceptual experience is involved.

(There is obviously much more to say about what the remote viewing experience is like. I’ve devoted significant parts of Chapter 8 to the question in my new book The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing.)

But you’re probably asking: What about Ingo Swann’s objection in our telephone conversation to the word “perception”? It’s easy to say this now that he has passed on (I know he won’t call and chew me out over the phone—though I’d welcome even that)—but I think he was simply wrong.

I know that sounds like heresy. Ingo Swann, wrong? But yes, I am saying that. Ingo was right about most things, but he was not God, so he could be (and occasionally was) wrong.
In this case, Ingo wasn’t altogether wrong, but wrong in the following way. In our phone conversation, recall that he says perception is “not a thing in itself. Perception is a process…it’s a process that begins in the subconscious, sends a pulse up through the liminal threshold, and if the pulse is strong enough, then it will turn into a perception.”

He seems to be using “perception” in two different ways without realizing it. First, he talks about perception being a process, and not a “thing,” per se. No question, he is right about that. The way he is using it, perception is a process. But then he goes on to describe the perceptual process as a pulse going up through the limen and turning into—a perception! Which is a thing. So perception is a process, which produces things we call perceptions. It’s hard to see how this poses any problem for the usefulness of the term “remote perception.”

But it goes further than that. Ingo seems to want to reject the idea of replacing the word “viewing” in his term in “remote viewing” with the word “perception” simply because perception is a process rather than a thing. But in so doing he runs into a similar problem with the term “remote viewing.”  After all, “viewing” is just as much of a process as is perception. In fact, it is a lesser process, since vision/viewing is only one component of the overall sensory perception process.

As you will see when I return to this topic in a later post, I am not trying to get anyone to replace “remote viewing” with “remote perception.” Given how deeply the latter term is embedded in remote viewers’ psyches, that would be hopeless, anyway. But I think having this discussion is useful to scrape away some cobwebs and cast light into areas many of us think we understand, but don’t. Because there is a third way Ingo is, I think, wrong, the exploration of which will be helpful in sorting out what is going on in the remote viewing/remote perception process.  That will wait until Part Two…

[Listen to the audio excerpt of  Ingo’s and my phone conversation here.]Ingo Swann and Paul H. Smith


Paul H. Smith is creator of the Remote Perception: Basic Operational Training home study course. . . Buy it here!Remote Perception Basic Operational Training home study course

. . . and author of The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing: The Secret Military Remote Perception Skill Anyone Can Learn.

Buy it here! The Essential Guide to Remote Viewing cover


  1. Julie T

    Wondering what book or manuscript Ingo working on when you spoke with him in the 2010 interview. Did he ever finish it? Is there a way to read it or get a copy? I would be very interested in what he commented about in it.
    Enjoyed your blog very much. Thank You Paul

  2. Geir Laastad

    Hello Paul,

    Congratulation with your new blog which I also have bookmarked.

    Could it be that Ingo also was primarily a visual remote viewer? I.e., his visuals was stronger than his other abilities (sound, taste, smell etc.)? If that was the case, it might explain some of his opinion. Other persons might have these abilities more evenly distributed, so the therm Remote Perception is very valid, at least for them. Just a thought 🙂

    Best Regards

    • admin

      Geir — interesting comment. I’m going to start off by saying no, I don’t think Ingo being a “visual viewer” explains it completely. But I’m not going to go beyond that, because it would take more to answer it than I prefer to have in a comments column. More importantly, your comment gave me an idea for a future blog post. Do you mind waiting for my (more thorough) response in a few weeks?

      • Geir Laastad

        Hello Paul.

        Not at all, I am looking forward to read more about this.
        Btw, I have both your books and the perception videos too and I am also in IRVA.


  3. Steve S.

    Hi Paul,

    Congrats on the blog! I look forward to a lot of interesting posts!

    If you accept the definition of perceive as “to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses,” then we have a quandary. In remote viewing, “remote” only applies to the sensing part of the process of perception. We collect the information remotely, but we perceive when the sensed information passes up through the limen to our conscious mind. That’s a local part of the process. So while I think “remote sensing” is more complete than “remote viewing”, they both leave out the perceiving part. However, both seem more correct than “remote perception” because that incorrectly implies the perceiving part is remote also.

    Since most people probably infer that when they “see” something they become aware of it or understand it (at least in English where the word “see” can alternatively mean to sense visually or to understand), perhaps “remote viewing” is best after all.


    • admin

      Steve — I see you have your thinking cap on! 🙂 Very thoughtful comment. Here’s my rejoinder: When you get right down to it, the experiential part is always local, considering that our brains which do the viewing and perceptual processing are isolated from the rest of the world except for a few electromagnetic input conduits (sense inputs are, by analogy, effectively the equivalent of a fancy, multi-input closed-circuit television gizmo that terminates in a processing booth without any actual windows or doors). Since “viewing” is actually a subset of perception (but not of sensing — the sensing part comes before the viewing), I don’t think there is a case for RV as a term being “better” than RP. A stronger case might be made for “remote sensing” except for one problem. By definition and in actuality, the senses aren’t even involved in the process. It is, of course, the whole point of blinding protocols, as well as maintaining a sufficient buffer via shielding, space and/or time–hence the “remote” aspect–to keep the senses out of it altogether (thus “extrasensory perception” — which I talk about at length in Chapter 2 of my new book).

  4. Gene Troy

    Hi Paul,
    Good to see your blog up there! I’m still a little curious about the parameters of what you would like to focus on in the blog. Looking at your response to Geir, which included the quote “it would take more to answer it than I prefer to have in a comments column,” made me wonder a bit where you would like to take this activity. Sounds like fun, though!

    I’m personally grateful for the opportunity, as you put it, “to scrape away some cobwebs and cast light into areas many of us think we understand, but don’t.” As you know, my personal cobwebs in the area of RV go back 19 years, with entirely too little scraping done in the meantime, hehe!

    To be frank, the term “remote viewing” never set particularly well with me, because I’m not a very visual person. If I had to describe the mode of perception I tended to use when practicing RV, it was more of a “grokking” (in the original Heinlen sense, not the programming sense). It seemed to be more of an immediate perception, not only of the object itself in physical characteristics, but its nature and perhaps even significance. Rather like the example student session #5 you have posted,

    I’m simply not sure how that kind of perception relates to the model Ingo has expressed. It may well be that I’m now just rather cold (ok, really cold) on the terminology at this late date. Perhaps I need to do some course auditing, ya think? And certainly to read your new book very carefully!


  5. Fortune

    This blog is a great idea Paul. i look forward to reading future entries and the conversations as they evolve. Thanks for all your work

    I think “remote viewing ” is a workable term though it certainly includes more than just visuals. For most people the first sensory impressions to arise into awareness from the subconscious are visuals, as sight maybe for most the primary reference system for making sense and orienting themselves in experiencing the world. Learning to use the nonphysical senses is new territory and exploring it necessitates allowing these perceptions to come into awareness without assumptions, without the analytical overlay we use and need to with our physical senses to navigate and interact with the physical environment. Remote viewing seems more a process of not doing rather than doing, allowing the perceptions to come into awareness without distortion, without the interference of jumping to conclusions and misinterpreting them.

    • admin

      Cool way of putting it: “not doing rather than doing”–but that is kind of right. Obviously, you still do things in RV. But learning to RV is as much about learning what not to do.

  6. Fortune

    When it comes to the term remote sensing, this is a term used for viewing the earth from satellites or aircraft. results

    I had a funny experience with that being confused with remote viewing while attending an IRVA conference in Texas. I had gone across the street for dinner and had decided to sit at the bar while waiting for a table. A couple sitting next to me noticed my name tag and asked what i was attending there ? When i told the a remote viewing conference, the suddenly welcomed me profusely, shaking my hand and thanking me for being involved in such a wonderful endeavor. The bought me a fancy big blue drink like the were drinking called a water moccasin.

    I thought wow folks in Texas seem very open minded about rv. They kept thanking me for my service, and how proud they were to welcome me . We continued our animated conversation about the glories of rv until my table was ready. They said it was so important to have folks like me monitoring the remote sensing from satellites.
    I of course said “oh no not that kind, we do it with the mind “and so on . i can tell you they were extremely disappointed. I felt bad having accepted that expensive big blue glowing drink with vapors wafting off of it. I said sorry for the confusion – did they want the water moccasin back? They did not.

  7. Jon

    Great to see you blogging Paul. Like this first one, and agree with your take. The RV term is misleading in itself, but I guess it was a bit more snappy from a branding point of view. Although I presume he would not have admitted that, do you think that may have had something to do with Ingo’s staunch defense of it? Do you think Hal and Russ went with it as a simpler term that was already out there, or because Ingo told them how it was going be!

    An idea for future posts, maybe a “from the archive” section looking at past military sessions, pulling out points of interest either from the RV itself or interesting back stories.

    Looking forward to future posts.

    • admin

      Jon — interesting questions to explore! I’d already thought about the idea of going through historical sessions. Have more than a few other topics to get out of the way first. Am working on one now (though I’m also teaching a CRV basic this week…which sort of interferes with the time, LOL) which I hope to post tomorrow or at latest Wednesday. We’ll see!

  8. Saiko

    Swann was correct. Perception is a process. Perception encompasses viewing whether local or remote. Through the process of perception one engages the experience – be it viewing, hearing, etc.

    For a more encompassing term for RV, I’d go with remote sensing. Or even better- “Non-local Experiencing.”

    • Saiko — Of course it is a process, and I agreed with Ingo in saying that. I just didn’t think the fact that it is a process was any reason not to have named remote viewing “remote perception” instead! 🙂 And, as I briefly mentioned in the article, they did consider “remote sensing,” but rejected it for two reasons. One was that the term was already being used as a overall name for satellite surveillance. But the second reason was that the senses are actually never involved. They are bypassed in some miraculous way and the experiential material is apparently directly processed by the perceptual centers of the brain. “Non-local experiencing” is perhaps a better solution than remote sensing. As it stands, folks like Russell Targ and Stephan Schwartz like to call it something similar: “non-local knowing.”

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