Cold War Psychic Warfare Programs

The Faith Machine was inspired by The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson’s book about US efforts to develop psychic phenomena for military and intelligence applications. Goats opens with the First Earth Battalion, a program under the US Army and DIA. Commissioned to blend mystic concepts from New Age philosophy and traditional military culture to produce ‘Warrior Monks.’ By their own account, veterans of the battalion developed clairvoyance, stealth, and the titular remote slaying of farm animals. As a comic book guy, this got me thinking about how the Army and the US intelligence community would develop and manage their own super humans, and what would happen to them after the Cold War.

The Cold War was a weird time. Every advantage was explored, and much material was thrown at the wall to see if it would stick. The First Earth Battalion was but one program the Department of Defense financed under the umbrella of the Stargate Project, established in 1978 and expanded to consolidate similar programs in 1991. While Stargate focused on powers of the mind, MKULTRA developed mind control chemicals under the CIA, and the US Air Force conducted Project Blue Book to study UFOs.

Spies being spies, much of the information about these programs were purged before declassification in 1995 (MKULTRA in 1971, Blue Book in 1969). Enough information survives for me to build my setting around, allowing me to do the Tim Powers thing; draw from history and build on top of it without contradiction.

How much water can be drawn from this well? I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA for a single document on the Soviet psychic warfare program. For $10 they sent me a DVD with over 12,000 declassified documents about Stargate. That’s a lot of water.

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