By Kathryn H. Kidd

Paul H. Smith was a returned missionary, a paratrooper, and the father of three when someone asked him if he wanted to be a psychic spy for the military.  Even though he didn’t know he had an ounce of psychic ability and he didn’t even believe psychic skills were possible, he told the recruiter to count him in.

Telling the story like that is leaving a whole lot of it out.  As a child, Paul had very much wanted to believe in extra-sensory perception.  It was only after a science fair project went down in flames that he became a skeptic.  His skepticism persisted through his mission and the early years of marriage.

When he reported to Fort Meade, Maryland, to work in military intelligence, he was approached by a man who had a proposition for him.  The man said, “I see that you have an interest in music, art, language and writing.  We’re in this ‘black’ program and are looking for people with a creative side to them, beyond their military expertise.  We’d like to give you some tests, and if you pass we can tell you what the program is and see if you might be interested in joining it.”

Paul didn’t have to think twice before he said yes.  The man who had approached him, Capt. F. Holmes “Skip” Atwater, was one of few people Paul had seen at Fort Meade who didn’t ever wear Army attire.  Another person – who worked with Atwater – even had a beard.  The two men stuck out in a way that was appealing to someone who had been wearing military uniforms to work every day for years.

“I didn’t know what they were doing,” he said, “but it looked like it might be fun.”

He took one test, and then whole a series of them.  They measured his personality, his way of thinking, his psychological makeup, and a whole lot of other things.  Finally, Atwater delivered the verdict.

“We want to teach you to use a parapsychological skill known as remote viewing to spy on the Soviets and other foreign threats,” Paul recalls Atwater’s bearded friend saying, as the program was explained.  “Up until the moment they told me, I didn’t believe in it.  But when he said that, a series of thoughts flashed through my mind.  First, I knew that if they were asking me to participate, they must have a program.  Second, if they had a program, they had to have gotten funding for it.  And third, if they had gotten funding for it, I knew there must be something to it.

“At that point, you couldn’t have kept me out of the program with a two-by-four,” he remembered.  “It took less than thirty seconds to make up my mind.”  That split-second decision sent Paul on a seven-year military odyssey into the realm of the human mind.  From the fall of 1983 to the day in 1990 when he was deployed to Desert Storm, Paul’s job description – if he had been allowed to tell anybody – was that he was a psychic spy. 

During its lifetime, the remote viewing unit collected intelligence against a broad range of targets: strategic missile forces, political leaders, narcotics operations, research and development facilities, hostage situations, military weapons systems, secret installations, technology developments, and terrorist groups.  The list was staggering, and the results were impressive.  Nobody really knew how it worked – only that it did.

It may have taken less than thirty seconds for Paul to choose his destiny, but the training took considerably longer.  Although he contends that most people can be taught to do what he did as a remote viewer, the process isn’t easy.  He was trained partly in California and partly in mid-town Manhattan.  Between one place and the other, he would return to Fort Meade to practice. 

He learned to sit at a table and concentrate on any impression he got that was related to a target number.  He was never told before or during the session what he was supposed to be viewing – he was just given the coordinates and asked to report what he saw.

“Our early training started out with the basics,” he explained.  “Our target might just be a point in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or the middle of a city, or a mountain.  Those early sessions were meant just to give us a feel for water, or structures, or land, or whatever.  As I learned to recognize those things, they started giving us more complex targets.”

Anyone who has seen the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind has seen a rough demonstration of the way Paul and the other remote viewers worked.  “You start off by getting basic impressions, such as color, texture, and smells,” he said.  “Then you begin to sense dimensional details. How long is the object? Is it round?  You start sketching, and you sketch what feels right. 

“If the target is the Eiffel Tower, for example, you may have sketched crisscrossing elements and a sense of tapering to a height.  Then you may get the impression that it’s a monument, or that it’s a tourist attraction with a foreign feel.  The word France may even come to mind.  Eventually you might build an actual model of what you perceive.  It’s a lot like Close Encounters, where Richard Dreyfuss was building Devil’s Tower out of mashed potatoes in the middle of the dining room table.  He didn’t know what he was making, but he had a sense of what it looked like.”

Over the years, Paul visited thousands of targets through remote viewing.  He helped America fight the Cold War in ways that are still classified, and has fond memories of many of those experiences.  Since his military retirement, he has been featured in programs for The History Channel, The A&E Network, and others.

“My favorite targets were the ones I did well on,” he recalled, laughing. “Those are the ones I had the strongest connection to.  One target was the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which used to be a Byzantine church in Turkey and is now a museum.  I drew almost an exact likeness of it, even though I thought I wasn’t getting it right.  I did Masada – not as it was in history, but as it was on the day I did the viewing.”

One of the oddities about remote viewing is that remote viewers are not restricted to perceiving what is going on in the world today.  One of the books written about remote viewers tells the story of a foreign spy who died in the United States under mysterious circumstances, and who had information that the Americans needed.  According to the story, the remote viewer targeted the man when he was still alive, read his mind, and got the information – as well as details about how the foreign agent was killed.

“Going back into time works pretty well,” Paul admitted.  “Once a skeptical Army major we were working with asked me to show him how remote viewing works.  He had written the name of a target and folded it up and stuck it in his pocket.  I always worry about demos like that because no session is guaranteed to work, and if it fails you look pretty silly.  But I did what he asked.  I saw rolling hills and misty morning air.  There were a bunch of rough looking guys wearing what seemed to be rude, primitive kinds of clothing, maybe even some animal skins or leather.  They were beating up on each other with antiquated, edged weapons.  I was about to continue describing the scene, but the major stopped me, saying he was satisfied.  He pulled out the paper, and what he’d written on it was the Battle of Hastings – 1066 A.D.  I don’t think I’d ever gone that far back in time before, but the guy pulled it on me and it worked.”

Some remote viewers believe they have seen some of the great scenes of history.  They claim they have witnessed the Crucifixion or visited Christ during the Sermon on the Mount.  Paul takes these claims lightly.

“I was once asked to remote view a target that turned out to be the lost Ark of the Covenant,” he said.  “I gave some description of the setting but didn’t get enough detail to learn where it’s located.  All I got, really, was a sense that somewhere, the Ark of the Covenant is still on the earth.

“Despite that,” he added, “Most of the extravagant claims are bogus.  People who have remote viewed those events were front-loaded.  By this, I mean they knew what the target was before they remote viewed the site.  The mind makes up all sorts of things if you know the target.  There is no way to know if the perceptions you get are real or if they have some sort of overlay.  If what you see confirms what is in the Bible, it could mean what you’re seeing is true or it could be your mind seeing what you already believe.  If the session doesn’t confirm your beliefs, it might shake your testimony, and later the remote viewing results might turn out to have been false anyway.” 

In other words, there’s no way to win if you try to remote view things you already believe.  Because of this, Paul says he stays away from targets that are belief-based.  However, this doesn’t mean that Paul’s faith is not part of what he does.  On the contrary, he says his testimony has been bolstered by his experiences as a psychic spy.

“For me, remote viewing has been a testimony enhancer,” he said.  Remote viewing gives “concrete evidence that we are more than our physical bodies.  In today’s world, one of the biggest threats to faith is the rejection of anything spiritual in favor of an atheistic or materialistic point of view.  The reason people don’t believe in God is that they reject things they don’t have physical evidence for, so they discard their religious belief.  Because I have seen that I can get knowledge without any material connection, I have evidence that the materialist viewpoint is fundamentally flawed.”

This mindset has helped him a great deal in the philosophy program he studies as he prepares for a doctorate.  “I might have found maintaining my own faith more challenging in the face of some of the very sophisticated philosophical challenges to a belief that there is a God,” he said. “The very strong evidence I have that remote viewing works has made my life much easier, because it shows that the universe is not closed the way many non-believers are convinced it is.” 

Paul says that because of the firm grasp on the knowledge that we aren’t alone in the universe that Latter-day Saints have, but also because of our understanding of the principle of personal revelation, Church members are generally pretty accepting of what he did for the government – and what he still does as a teacher of remote viewing today.  “I’ve found almost universally that church members don’t seem put off by it,” he said. 

“I had one situation where a bishop was a bit dubious.  It was shortly after I’d retired and started my remote viewing training company.  Not wanting him to be surprised by the publicity he might see, I thought I’d give him some warning.  He was pretty dubious about it at first.  I’m sure he was worried I’d gotten involved in some weird cult thing.  But when I told him that the program was started by the CIA and that the Army was also involved, he relaxed a bit.  This particular bishop worked for the NSA (National Security Agency), so he had an open mind once he learned where it had all come from.  He said, ‘If the government was behind all this, I guess it’s probably okay.'”

In fact, one of the few downsides Paul has seen in remote viewing is that virtual miracles happen so often.  “A person gets so used to miracles that often they pass all but unrecognized,” he explained.  “As one of my RV buddies once said, ‘Paul, what amazes me about this is that it doesn’t amaze me any more.’

“I have really come to understand why ‘signs’ are not good vehicles for true conversion,” he added.  “If they’re too far apart, you start to rationalize or forget.  But if they’re close together, you start taking them for granted.”

There is also a fear that some people might get so involved in remote viewing that they would trust it before they would rely on the priesthood, Paul said.  “There’s always the chance that someone might get carried away and start to replace reliance on the priesthood with involvement in remote viewing.  Doing that would be a big mistake.  Remote viewing is no substitute for the priesthood.  As long as people keep their priorities straight, remote viewing can be useful.  If they lose their perspective, however, it can cause them to go astray.  Many things can do that, from commercialism to video games or even football. You just need to keep yourself focused on the important things in life.”

A former elders quorum president, gospel doctrine teacher, and bishop’s counselor, Paul is currently serving as high priest instructor for the McNeil Ward, Round Rock Texas Stake.  He was just released as Webelos leader, a calling he has had for the past four years.  He is married and the father of four children.

Even though the psychic spy program closed its doors on June 30, 1995, Paul still works in the field.  He teaches classes to students who are interested in learning the art of remote viewing.  (Learn more about his classes and about remote viewing in general through his website).  Remote viewing classes aren’t cheap, but he says that learning how to be a remote viewer is no more expensive than learning how to play the piano – “it’s just concentrated into a shorter period than most people pay for piano lessons.”

He is also the author of a recent book, Reading the Enemy’s MindInside Star Gate – America’s Psychic Espionage Program.

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The book has been described as “one of the most important books about human potential you will ever read.”

Of course, as a church member, Paul says he wasn’t surprised to learn that the power of human potential may be infinite.  This is something that he and other Latter-day Saints have known all along.