I wonder if the people who made the blockbuster film The Men Who Stare at Goats (in theatres now) read EnlightenNext magazine? We don’t want to flatter ourselves, of course :), but the editorial team here at EnlightenNext was happy when we found out that a movie was being made about the same group of “psychic soldiers” that contributing editor Maura R. O’Connor wrote about in our March-May 2006 issue (when we were still called What Is Enlightenment? magazine). The Men Who Stare at Goats, which is based on a 2006 book by British Author Jon Ronson, tells the story of a highly classified 1970s US Army project that trained a group of “Aquarian warriors” in a variety of non-traditional combat and peace-keeping tactics which it picked up from the then-budding human potential movement–things like psychic manipulation, “love bombs,” meditation, remote-viewing, and yes, killing goats with their minds.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, here’s the trailer:
But as O’Connor pointed out in her article, the project was not entirely intended to produce a more effective group of killers. The project’s founder, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon (now a reader of EnlightenNext magazine!), had a much more idealistic vision for bringing about a whole new era for the US military. In the following excerpt, she describes how Channon, freshly back from the horrors of the Vietnam War, came up with the idea for what he called “The First Earth Battalion.“:
Traveling to the West Coast, [Channon] spent two years visiting over one hundred fifty New Age groups, futurists, psychotherapists, theologians, martial arts masters, and a “wide array of practitioners both Western and Eastern, ancient and modern, and orthodox and mystic.” Upon his return in 1979, Channon presented the results of his research to the Pentagon in the form of a 125-page manual replete with instructions, blueprints, diagrams, and illustrations for a new military, one that would absorb and implement every conceivable New Age technique and belief on a planetary scale. “It is America’s role,” he wrote, “to lead the world to paradise.”
O’Connor continues with a description of the various techniques that Channon proposed:
The First Earth Battalion would also include “guerilla gurus” to conduct “high consciousness commando raids” and would be capable of using “omni-directional thought” to implement “non-destructive methods of control” over the enemy. Intuition would be consulted first and foremost by battalion soldiers. A chapter on ethical combat describes uniforms that are colorful and functional so that the “individual will shine through the uniformity” and includes drawings of techno-savvy battle gear with pockets for “natural foods,” “ginseng regulators,” and “divining tools.” Alternating between military-speak and spiritual metaphysics, Channon’s manual predicts that the military will move out of its “cultural trance” in order to allow soldiers to “release . . . the force inside . . . for no other descriptions matter in the end. The Earth Battalion honors all paths to enlightenment.”
Of course, Channon’s wild vision wasn’t fully embraced by the military, but as the movie shows, a variety of his ideas were implemented, some of which are still in use today. If you want to learn more about the First Earth Battalion, check out the full article here and this sneak peak of a documentary about the project featuring interviews with Channon and the other soldiers who participated in this avant-garde experiment in military evolution.