The nature of warfare is changing. Thanks to the digital revolution, soldiers now carry with them a wide array of technological capabilities which would have once appeared as magic to opposing forces. On top that, militaries around the world are exploring ways to augment soldiers’ biology through technology, making the cyborg warriors from Universal Soldier seem closer than ever to reality. It’s not only gizmos and gadgets which give soldiers an advantage on the battlefield, however. A United States Marine Corps manual recently leaked to the press shows that the U.S. Armed Forces have been experimenting with forms of ESP – extrasensory perception. Seem too weird to be true? Well, it is in a way.
TheDailyBeast reports that the United States’ Office of Naval Research published what it calls a “sensemaking training” manual that seeks to train soldiers how to use their own powers of perception and intuition as some kind of ‘sixth sense.’ TheDailyBeast obtained the 23-page manual, printed in 2014, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Research psychologist and consultant Gary Klein, who helped develop the manual, told TheDailyBeast that while many might jump at the chance to proclaim the military is training soldiers how to bend spoons with their minds or the like, the reality is much more benign:
I was worried about how this could be viewed in a sensational way with ‘spidey-sense’ or something that sounds like ESP or something paranormal. That’s not what the military’s interested in. They’re interested in developing expertise and the core part of expertise is tests, knowledge and the ability to make sense of situations.
Due to the stigmas associated with alleged heightened mental abilities, the Office of Naval Research no longer uses the term “extrasensory perception,” opting instead for “sensemaking.” The manual is in reality more of a form of pop psychology involving mindfulness, visualization, and awareness of one’s surroundings. The exercises in the manual are meant to help soldiers trust their natural instincts and visualize the motivations for the behavior of both their peers and adversaries. The manual states that a Marine practicing these sensemaking techniques can “through empathy, intuit the relationships and dynamics in the community and environment in which he’s operating.” Not exactly spidey-sense at all.
While the headlines proclaiming this manual to be proof of shadowy paranormal research are a bit overblown, several other sets of declassified documents recently have shown that the U.S. Armed Forces and intelligence agencies are no strangers to the paranormal and unexplained. The CIA, in particular, spent decades researching telepathic distance viewing and conducted studies of some of the world’s most (in)famous mentalists like Uri Geller. Who knows what kind of research and experiments never saw the light of day? Sure, a few interesting FOIA releases here and there are one thing, but what about the stuff they don’t keep records on? We’ll likely never know just how deep the military’s and intelligence community’s rabbit holes go.