The Stargate Conundrum    The Stargate Conundrum

The US Government’s secret pursuit of the psychic drug

Chapter 1. A Man for All Psychics

Andrija Puharich. Not an every-day American name. Not an everyday person. The New Age guru turned fugitive and in 2002 convicted for murder Ira Einhorn observed that he had “practically lived in mind-link with Andrija for six years” and described his former mentor as “the great psychic circus manager of this century.” He is indeed regarded as the “father of the American New Age movement”. Puharich was born in 1918 in Chicago, from Yugoslavian parents. Graduating from medical school at Northwestern University in 1947, his interest was immediately captured by the paranormal. Particular emphasis was placed upon the possibility to enhance, in some way or another, the innate psychic abilities that many if not all of us seemed to possess. Puharich’s public career began in the late 1950s, when he wrote two books: The Sacred Mushroom and Beyond Telepathy. He then disappeared into the background again, until the early 1970s, when he travelled to Israel, and returned to the US with Uri Geller, the spoon-bending psychic that would soon create so much controversy. Behind this public life, lay a private life, which Steven Levy described as “much of his life [is] clouded in a murkiness he has come to wear like some exquisite garment.”

Whereas the Geller episode has captured the imagination of most and has made Puharich a known name, it was Beyond Telepathy that was considered to be a landmark publication. Ira Einhorn thought it was “the book”. It followed Einhorn’s idea that there was a relationship between information and energy. Or as Einhorn later stated: “to understand the laws that govern the non-physical.” Or: the laws that govern another dimension.

What had received less attention was Puharich’s publication The Sacred Mushroom, even though the book seems to be at the origin of all of his later material. Its subtitle carried the intriguing word “doorway”: “doorway to eternity”. How similar to “stargate”. The book tackles seemingly random events occurring during the time when Puharich was doing remote viewing as a “private initiative with government support”, i.e. his time when he ran the Round Table Foundation, which had been instrumental for the “Council of Nine” affair.

The book stated that two “remote viewers” – though not identified by this new name, but rather by the old label of “psychics” – (particularly Harry Stone) frequently went into a spontaneous trance, during which he talked largely in riddles, performing motions that seemed to be rituals. From this no doubt bizarre spectacle, Puharich was able to deduce that Stone was “remembering” a previous incarnation, when he was a high priest in Egypt, at the time of the building of the pyramids. Stone was stressing to Puharich the importance of a cult of a mushroom, the use of which was ritualised, allowing access to what we would term the Realm of the Lords – another dimension, very similar to the dimension in which the Nine were supposed to be sojourning. Puharich stated that some chemical in mushrooms, as was known at that time, was a hallucinogenic substance.

This is all nice and fine, but hallucinogenics were and are labelled as inducing visions that were “not real”; they were and are not supposed to take us into a different dimension, merely into a strange series of images concocted by the brain. Within the framework of our “hyperdimension”, we were talking here about a “real dimension”.

So two linked questions rose to the forefront: were the ancient Egyptians, and Puharich, mistaken by the visions of the mushroom? Did they believe it somehow allowed entry into a strange but real realm, rather than understanding – as present science suggested – that with the use of hallucinogenics, the brain merely went weird and in overdrive, but not “into” anything resembling another dimension? Question number two: did the ancients and Puharich realise that the mushroom contained some magical chemical that opened the door for the mind to enter into another dimension? Was this chemical a “stargate”? If so, how had Puharich come to this conclusion? Beneath the published record, lay a personal account, one which only after his death was revealed by his second wife, who wrote a biography, which in the end was only ever published electronically.

Puharich’s story starts at university, where he developed the “Theory of Nerve Conduction”. In the words of Terry Milner: “The theory proposed that the neuron units radiate and receive waves of energy which he calculated to be in the ultrashortwave bands below infrared and above the radar spectrum. Therefore the basic nerve units – neurons – are a certain type of radio receiver-transmitter.” Puharich’s theory was well received by leading scientists, including one Jose Delgado, later to become one of the pioneers for the CIA in implanting electronic tools in animal brains, to influence their behaviour. But Puharich’s aim was to become a doctor, even though during his internship, he carried out research into digatoid drugs. His sponsor was Sandoz Chemical Works, the pharmaceutical company that had created LSD – at a time when the world had not yet fallen for its hallucinogenic properties. Even though a brilliant career would lay ahead for Puharich if only he were to apply himself, his main interest lay elsewhere: all his time was devoted to the human brain, and beyond. In the mid 1940s, he wrote: “I would venture to say that nobody really knows another’s mind thoroughly, and I would further venture that very few people really know their own mind. It would certainly be a great step forward for many of us if we could sit down and untangle the jungle that is our mind, and then understand those processes by which we judge and study others. If I could do a good job of a task like this, understanding the nature of man’s consciousness, I would feel that I had passed a great milestone in my education.” Puharich was interested in ESP (extrasensory perception) and was aware of the pioneering work of J.B. Rhine, one of the leading inter bellum parapsychologists.

Puharich then traded in his military call-up for the first of a long series of funds: he found a sponsor who paid him a weekly wage. In return, Puharich would try to unravel the mystery of ESP. ESP, according to Puharich, was nothing more than an extension of his previous theory on nerve conduction. The brain and the nervous system were linked to cells, and instructions – energy – flowed between them. “The point that I am trying to establish is that the brain is an area wherein is localized the cell energy of the body. I shall label this cell energy ‘dynamics.’ I further venture to say that transference of dynamics from one person to another is possible.” How? “We all know that there are people who can thrill and exhilarate one, and that there are others who simply bore and fatigue one. This implies that there is a wireless, touchless transfer of this vital substance. If dynamics can be transferred from one organism to another, why cannot that other function of the mind – thought, also be transferred from one mind to another mind? It is also conceivable that dynamics not only passes freely between persons, but also dissipates out into the atmosphere.” In other words, ESP.

Not even 30 years old, Puharich was showing his unique potential, looking towards ESP as a practical problem, which resided within the realm of scientific exploration. No wonder Aldous Huxley would later label him “one of the most brilliant minds in parapsychology”. According to Puharich himself, it was around this time that he was spotted by the intelligence agencies as a potential asset. Puharich claimed he became involved with a “Project Penguin”, a project whose existence has been denied by its sponsor. Project Penguin allegedly got underway in 1948, a Navy exercise that ran for some years. Its scope: to test individuals set to possess “psychic powers”. In charge of the project was Rexford Daniels, this according to a statement made by Puharich on the Geraldo Rivera show on October 2, 1987. A Rexford Daniels did indeed exist and owned a company that in the 1970s must have attracted the attention of Puharich as the company did research into an area in which Puharich was a world-renowned expert at the time: how proliferating electromagnetic emissions interfere with one another and may work harmful environmental effects on man.

However, it is only Puharich who has spoken about Penguin and even though there is no logical reason why he would lie about that episode of his life, it is not substantiated at present by other material. Still, whether Puharich worked for the Navy or not is not that important. It is a fact that he himself started to become the magnet that attracted the world’s most notorious psychics. The only question is whether it was pure self-interest, or whether the Navy was asking him to meet these people. Still, one of the more notorious of these individuals, Peter Hurkos, was brought to the US by a man with a background in Naval intelligence. So at the very least, the Navy did help Puharich… and we need to wonder why they did so much for what was, in essence, a psychic, for which there was no official interest. It was November 1949 when Puharich met Eileen Garrett, a well-known medium and founder of the Parapsychological Foundation in New York. She never wanted money for her séances and apparently doubted her own psychic abilities, even though when challenged in tests, she always succeeded brilliantly. Puharich was very impressed by Garrett, thrilled even as he got “a glimpse of what the operation of telepathy could be like.” Garrett accepted to be tested by Puharich. She then introduced him to John Hays Hammond, one of the world’s great electronic inventors. Puharich and Hammond would become friends, which would last at least a decade, as testified by Puharich’s wife who visited the Hammond residence in 1958. To quote Puharich: “Jack became my mentor, teaching me more subtleties of life than any book can capture. He taught me the art of invention, how all his ideas came to him in dreams, in reveries, etc.”

On March 27, 1951, Puharich and Eileen Garrett started experiments to find out whether or not telepathy existed. Puharich at the time was doing various tasks, some involving ESP, others involving food testing, as well as supplementing his income with his career as a medical doctor. As such, it is difficult to find out how much money came in from where, but it is generally believed that there was a “secret source of income”. And it is believed that this source were the American Intelligence agencies.

Fortune often walked together with these, as in 1951 he somewhat miraculously received a research grant of close to $100,000 to build a solid sheet metal Faraday cage, to test Garrett. And if the world of spooks had not been interested before, they were now. The Army, via Colonel Jack Stanley, and a French General, J.C. Sauzey, came to Puharich to express the interest of both the US and French government. Uri Geller stated in 1996 that he “probably” believed that “the whole thing with Andrija was financed by the American Defense Department.” That opinion was also expressed by Jack Sarfatti, who added that Puharich was Geller’s case officer in America with money provided by Sir John Whitmore. Puharich himself stated that his draft into the Army was strange, as Puharich had written down in his book The Sacred Mushroom: “Col. Nolton (a pseudonym), Chief of the Army Medical Laboratories of the Chemical Corps had invited me to his office one day. In a most roundabout way he had quizzed me about my experience with mind readers and such people who could get verifiable intelligence in the absence of any known mechanism to account for it.” Pure remote viewing. Puharich pointed out this was only the most recent in a long series of conversations that had started prior to his entry into the Army. “The first such conversation had started in August of 1952 at the Round Table Laboratory in Glen Clove, Maine. A friend of mine, an army colonel, who was Chief of the Research Section of the Office of the Chief of Psychological Warfare, had dropped in to say hello.” He was interested in Puharich’s research and a machine that was deemed to augment a person’s ESP capabilities. (So far, I have not seen this go on sale in the high street, making me wonder whether Puharich’s machine did not work… or whether its design is hiding somewhere…)

It was this report that was presented on November 24, 1952 before a meeting of the Research Branch of the Office of the chief of Psychological Warfare at the Pentagon. On December 6, 1952, Puharich received a greeting card from the draft board and was inducted into the Army on February 26, 1953. Puharich commented how strange this was, as he had had a medical discharge as a first lieutenant in 1948. It was clear that the Army wanted him solely for his recent experiments and by controlling his paycheck, they were controlling the man.

To once again quote Puharich’s wife: “Why they [the US and French military] had shown an interest became clear in 1959 when a French popular science magazine published a story that the Americans had been successfully communicating by telepathy with the submarine, Nautilus. This rumour gave Soviet scientists, already interested in telepathy, a lever to gain fresh government backing. A parapsychological unit was added to the Leningrad department of physiology, with professor Vasiliev as its head. The Super Power competition was on.” And playing captain for the American team was Andrija Puharich.

Puharich himself has stated that the Round Table Foundation was indeed a front for the Army. It functioned in 1953, when he worked for the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Maryland, where he served until April 1955. Picknett and Prince had stumbled upon this episode of Puharich’s career and stated that this re-employment was because the Army was interested in finding a drug that would stimulate psychic abilities. That is right: a substance that would give a person psychic abilities… Puharich’s Chemical Center at Edgewood was known to co-operate with the CIA’s MK-ULTRA team, whose quest was all about mind-altering drugs. Coincidence? The existence of the secret mind control programme of the CIA and the Army only came to light after Nixon’s resignation in 1974, when a fresh wind of “openness” seemed to flow through the opened windows of the Washington governmental offices. American journalist John Marks requested, using the Freedom of Information Act, several documents on the subject, which would result in Senate Hearings that occurred in 1977. A can of worms had been opened.

Were there any references to Puharich in these documents? One of the projects that was part of this programme, BLUEBIRD/ARTICHOKE, ran from 1952 till 1956, roughly coinciding with the period when Puharich was assigned to Edgewood. Furthermore, Ira Einhorn stated that his mentor, Puharich, “was doing LSD work for the CIA in 1954”. He linked Puharich with Sidney Gottlieb and MK-ULTRA and added that Puharich was involved in the notorious experiments that resulted in the death of one subject, Frank Olson, who fell from a window. Olson allegedly committed suicide in 1953 by jumping out of a 13-story window, 175 feet to the ground. Olson had unknowingly taken a dose of LSD. He resigned from government service shortly thereafter and allegedly began to divulge classified information to members of his car pool.

In 1965, Olson’s son Eric read a story that the CIA had experimented with LSD as a truth serum testing it on their own scientists in the 1950s. The CIA confirmed that his father had been one of these test subjects. In 1975, Gerald Ford awarded the Olsons $750,000 and an apology. In 1994, Eric was granted permission to exhume the body. The conclusion from this port-mortem was inconsistent with either an accidental fall or a suicide – there was an unexplainable bruise on the side of Olson’s forehead that had not occurred when he had hit the ground. The enquiry decided that Olson had probably been hit with a blunt object and was thrown out the window.

It was not the sole time the CIA experimented on its own citizens. In 1968-9, the CIA experimented with the water supply of the Food and Drug Administration, injecting it with a chemical substance. The experiment was intended to test the possibility of poisoning drinking water. No harmful effects were noted, and this case seems harmless enough, except that Nuremberg rules were violated. High strangeness in the state of play was indicated by Puharich himself. During the Round Table Foundation years, he was regularly visited by Army officials. One visit, by an Army general and his staff in September 1957, was cancelled at the last moment. Why? “There was some compelling security reason unknown to him [the Army general] which made it undesirable for military officials to express an interest in our kind of research.” The answer does not make sense. The answer implies that the general had wanted to visit Puharich, but that the Army had instructed him to cancel the visit, as the general did not have the necessary security clearances, or reasons. This was a tell-tale sign that the Army was involved with Puharich. One general in the Army wanted to visit a person whom he believed was a civilian, but when the visit was logged, someone in the Army, in another department, apparently realised this general was treading on sacred ground, and he was ordered to cancel his visit. In 1954, Puharich received a transcript from what Harry Stone had uttered during a trance. Some were in English, others in Egyptian. “The first time this occurred, Harry had been at Mrs. Davenport’s apartment in New York. When admiring a gold pendant, in the form of a cartouche, he had suddenly started to tremble all over, got a crazy staring look in his eyes, staggered around the room, and then fell into a chair.”

What fascinated Andrija was the trance description that Stone had given of a plant that could separate consciousness from the physical body. Puharich knew that the ancient Greeks and the shamans in Siberia had an ancient tradition in which men partook of a plant which could detach the soul from the body, travel far, and then return with knowledge that was otherwise inaccessible to the human mind. If he was able to master this technique, it was clear that he and those for whom he worked, would have a powerful advantage over their enemies. Stone’s drawings of the plant looked like mushrooms, and the description he gave was that of the fly agaric, or amanita muscaria.

Puharich realised that Stone had given him the answer to his problem: this mushroom could enhance extrasensory perception in human beings. All he had to do was find it and use it. By the fall of 1955, Puharich had an ample supply of the mushroom to find out… Being a scientist by training, he first set out to analyze the mushroom chemically, and found three chemicals that were of interest for his study of psychic effects: muscarine, atropine and bufotenin. Muscarine stimulates the parasympathetic nerve endings, giving the user great muscular strength and endurance. After this initial stimulating effect, muscarine acted as a poison and paralysed the very nerves that it had stimulated. Atropine alone initially stimulated the central nervous system and then paralysed it. The third drug, bufotenin was a hallucinogenic drug. Combined, they made the mushroom a magic potion.

Puharich tested 35 “psychically ungifted” people, but none reported anything out of the ordinary. But in the case of Harry Stone, during a visit by Aldous Huxley, Stone asked to have the mushroom administered. Rather than chew, Stone applied the mushroom on his tongue and on the top of his head, in ritualistic fashion. Five minutes later he woke up, and began to stagger around as though he were heavily intoxicated with alcohol. At that point, Puharich wanted to test whether Stone’s psychic abilities had enhanced. The results were positive. In fact, they were not just positive, but perfect. Ten out of ten. And not only that, but superfast as well.

Puharich quickly administered a large dose of atropine and removed the remaining particles of the mushroom from his tongue. Within fifteen minutes, Harry was ‘normal’ again. This was, of course, a major revelation for Puharich and the experiments were detailed in his book, The Sacred Mushroom. But Puharich was not the only one to write about it. Aldous Huxley stated: “I spent some days, earlier this month, at Glen Cove, in the strange household assembled by Puharich […] Harry, the Dutch sculptor, who goes into trances in the Faraday Cage and produces automatic scripts in Egyptian hieroglyphics […] whatever may be said against Puharich, he is certainly very intelligent, extremely well read and highly enterprising. His aim is to reproduce by modem pharmacological, electronic and physical methods the conditions used by the Shamans for getting into a state of travelling clairvoyance. At Glen Cove they now have found eight specimens of the amanita muscaria. This is very remarkable as the literature of the mycological society of New England records only one previous instance of the discovery of an amanita in Maine. The effects, when a piece as big as a pin’s head, is rubbed for a few seconds into the skin of the scalp, are quite alarmingly powerful, and it will obviously take a lot of very cautious experimentation to determine the right psi-enhancing dose of the mushroom.”

In short, Puharich found a psychic drug and one of the main authorities on the subject, Aldous Huxley, agreed, “whatever may be said against Puharich”, suggesting that Huxley was aware of a darker side to the man… or a side he at least wanted to distance himself from.

In spite of this promising start, Stone’s further test results deteriorated the more experiments occurred. At the same time, Puharich was often otherwise engaged. It was only in the late 1950s, when writing The Sacred Mushroom, that Puharich could once again set his mind in a logical order. And what he realised was simple: Stone had shown the possibility that a psychic, when being administered a hallucinogenic substance, will be able to get 100 percent accurate information from “paranormal communication”. Now Puharich only needed to find out whether it was repeatable, that all important condition for an experiment to be labelled “scientific”. Puharich needed more psychics and Henry Belk brought the name of a Dutch psychic, Peter Hurkos to his attention. Puharich stated on many occasions that he was only responsible for placing Hurkos in a light state of trance. “I have seen Hurkos demonstrate just as good or better examples of extrasensory perception without the use of the mushroom.” Hurkos’ extraordinary psychic gifts had manifested after he fell from a ladder onto his head in 1944. He suffered a brain injury and lay in a coma for three days. On regaining consciousness, he found that he had acquired an ability to “see into the unknown”.

Hurkos was tested for “normal” psychic abilities, but also for “enhanced” abilities, i.e. the mushroom ritual. Puharich wrote: “On August 23, 1957, after Hurkos had been administered the preparation of the mushroom, he slipped into a semi sleep state in about twenty minutes and began to talk. He saw what he called ‘a miracle in the sky’. When asked what this miracle was, he was not capable of giving it finite description. These are the words he used: ‘There is going to be a miracle in the sky. It is coming. I cannot tell you precisely what it is, except that I see it as an earth-ball. It is in the sky, and everybody in the whole world can see it.”

The results of the experiment were, to say the least, unimpressive; they belonged in the category of “the world is coming to an