( The Office of Paranormal Investigations - Newsletter )
Uri Geller's Mind Power Workshop
A Summary & Review
Uri Geller, famed Israeli psychic and spoon-bender, has a new product out: URI GELLER’S MIND POWER KIT (Penguin, 1996). The kit contains a nice hardcover book, a relaxation/meditation audio tape, a prop to help meditate (a card with a big orange dot on it) and a nice quartz crystal, the kit has been in bookstores here in the States for a couple of months now (longer overseas). To no one’s surprise, it has apparently become the hit seller of the world-wide New Age Market.
Not limited to just psychic phenomena, I am happy to say that Uri’s book covers essentially the idea that our minds have great power even over ourselves (not “simply” psychokinesis). In the book, he covers many techniques for self-empowerment, including visualization, the use of willpower, the psychological effects of color, and of course ESP and PK, as well as learning to live with such talents.
While I’m not personally convinced about the use of crystals as anything more than something to focus on, I’m happy to see so much attention on self-empowerment by Uri, both because it is a good message to provide and it is along the same lines as my own recently released book MIND OVER MATTER (Kensington Books). Uri’s book is more activity oriented, rather than informational like mine.
To help promote the sales of the kit, Uri has been traveling the US presenting a workshop derived from the kit and from his life experience. I attended his workshop in San Francisco presented by the Learning Annex in late November.
Much of the workshop was Uri relating highlights of his life, partly, I believe to clear up some past misconceptions about that (including that he believed he got his “powers” from aliens) and partly to deliver some interesting life lessons. Here’s a rundown of the highlights of his life story, and of the rest of the workshop (from my notes taken that day).
As a very young child, Uri was outside his home in Israel and saw a light coming down from the sky. Though he was clear that it was not aliens, not a UFO, he wasn’t sure what it was --- only that it struck him (without harm). Perhaps a bit of ball lightning?
In any event, as time went on in young Uri’s life, he found himself capable of “cheating” on tests at school by focusing on the back of the head of a “good student,” and doing a bit of telepathic “copying.”
He discussed his parent’s divorce, and his mother getting re-married. His stepfather, who was well off, moved them to Cyprus, which was in the middle of a war at the time. Because his school was too close to some of the fighting, he was enrolled in a better school --- a Catholic school.
Uri was quite amusing as he discussed his first sight of the school – and the towering cross that was in front of it. Growing up as a Jew in Israel, he related, one is taught to avoid any other religious symbols, not to even look at a cross. So, imagine this boy’s panic as he caught sight of the huge Christian symbol as he was driven to his new school --- “I thought I was going to hell.” Fortunately, he learned from one of the head instructors that all religion was the same “One God …. We build religion” around God.
His mother began to run a small hotel on the island when he was a young teen, and apparently, the site was a good place for Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) agents to stay on the island. One of the agents brought Uri into it. Apparently, when the man was away from the hotel, Uri was asked to take any letters he received to the Israeli Ambassador. This man became a special “contact” of his.
So, for a while, Uri intended to become a spy. However, that was not to be as while he was in officers’ school in the Israeli Army, he learned that his Mossad contact, who would have gotten him into the organization, was shot on a raid. He left officers’ school and left behind designs on being the next James Bond.
Uri fell into being a male model for a time. During this period, others learned of his telepathic “tricks” and his metal-bending. He was asked to perform some of his antics at private parties.
At one such party, Golda Meir was present and Uri conducted a picture drawing telepathy test with her. The drawing was of the Star of David. Uri admitted at the workshop that you “don’t have to be a psychic to figure out she’d draw that.”
Whether she believed this was a demonstration of real telepathy or not, the next day during an interview, when asked a question Golda said to “ask Uri Geller” for the answer. This led to a fast rise to fame for Uri (this was in 1969).
He performed before large and small audiences for some time. But after a while, the audiences stopped coming (towards the end of ’71) because Uri “couldn’t change my act because I wasn’t a magician.” He told us he ended up performing in “dingy nightclubs.”
In 1972, there was a rise in American interest in countering what the Russians were doing in the way of parapsychological research. Andrija Puharich, who was involved in psi investigation and research (and author of such important non-psi works as THE SACRED MUSHROOM), was sent to Israel to approach Uri for testing.
Puharich “tested” Uri in his hotel room and became convinced of his abilities. Sometime after, unusual voices would mysteriously appear on Puharich’s tape recorder --- some form of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) that Uri said Puharich began to believe was a result of extraterrestrial contact (hence Puharich’s book, URI, having so much of a focus on E.T.s being responsible for Uri’s powers, even though Uri had no such belief).
Uri was brought to the San Francisco Bay Area for testing by a DARPA (Defense Dept.) sponsored psi research program going on at Stanford Research Institute. This highly controversial testing was conducted by Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ (something too much for me to get into right now).
Uri began to speak about the controversy that came out of public attention on his being tested at SRI. “I love the controversy…I didn’t even read the articles. I just measured them to see how big they were” (how many column-inches he got). Because he didn’t read the critical articles, he didn’t respond to them directly. It was a “mistake from my side not to do” anything legal. Eventually, the attacks shifted to ones that were libelous and defaming.
Uri spoke a bit about skeptics attacks, but shifted back to his “life story.”
Sometime after the research trip to California, Uri appeared on a TV show in England (otherwise also notable because he was on with the reigning Miss World). During his TV spot, Uri sent people looking in their homes for spoons to bend and watches to fix. He had them focus on what he was doing, and shortly thereafter, the BBC’s switchboard was overloaded with calls speaking of success. This, certainly more than any psi research, gave him his true overnight world-wide fame.
Unfortunately, the stresses of instant success coupled with the controversy over his powers did begin to get to him a bit.
He was asked by a mining corporation executive to try to help find gold and oil. After all, said the exec, there was more money in finding metal than in bending metal. Uri had successes at this task and was well paid for that success.
However, this new success led him to an obsession with making money, as he had come from impoverished roots in Israel. Coupled with the stresses of fame, he became a victim of the eating disorder, bulimia.
Uri was amusing talking about this serious and dangerous part of his life, but he related how stressful the illness was on not only him, but also those around him.
Then one day, the realization of what he was doing hit him hard. He told himself that he would stop the bulimic behavior with a focusing of his mind: “One….Two….Three…. STOP!” was his mental shout. And from that point on, he stopped being bulimic. This made him realize just how powerful the mind is, not just for things outside the body, but also for altering one’s own health and behavior.
Then came another revelation of sorts. Dr. Thelma Moss, who was on faculty at UCLA at the time, was very interested in the incidents of spoon-bending and watch mending that were reported by people watching Uri on live TV. So, she showed a group of students a video of one of Uri’s appearances where he addressed the home audience. Lo and behold, members of Moss’s class had spontaneous incidents of metal-bending an watch repair.
This led to the realization for Uri that he was a “trigger” for the abilities of others. “It’s you people …. When you open up your minds and say something good is going to happen … it does!” But belief, as parapsychologists have discovered, is the all important factor. One has to believe it will be so.
Uri took a brief break and introduced Eldon Byrd, a researcher who had done much work with him over the years (and who had sued the Amazing Randi for libel and won).
Byrd discussed Uri’s experiments in altering the structure of samples of the metal nitinol, an alloy that retains a memory of the shape it’s cast in (bend it out of shape, apply some mild heat, even that of the human body, and it goes back to its original shape by itself).
Byrd then went on to describe some connection Uri had had with the CIA. Apparently, the CIA kept track of Uri. Byrd said the CIA tested Uri, though he wasn’t aware at the time that it was a CIA experiment. Uri did volunteer to work with the CIA, but, in general, the CIA told Byrd Uri was potentially a “double agent” because he had worked with the Mossad in the past.
Uri came back and told us of one CIA piece he’d been asked to work on. He was taken to Mexico and was asked to focus on the Soviets in their Embassy and particular Russian couriers to see what he could “pick up” and to attempt to erase computer memory and disks in the Embassy. He got no word, apparently, on how successful he was.
Uri then began his final piece, to discuss ideas of willpower and self-empowerment, and how we can change our own lives with our mind power.
He did do a few demonstrations throughout the session, though it was mostly a lecture. Here’s a quick run-down of the demos:
1) A woman from the audience was asked to write the name of a “simple color” on a flip chart while Uri stood away and behind it. The woman flipped several pages over it to cover the word, and Uri asked the audience to “send it into my mind.” The woman wrote the color “blue” and Uri got it. Was this psychic? Perhaps, though blue is one of two most thought of colors (red’s the other).
2) Uri sat a “heavy set” man in a chair and he and three others, using a couple of fingers each, were able to lift the man after the man was instructed to be “lighter.” Whether you consider this psychic or not, it does show the effect of mind over matter….In this case the mind of the man being lifted.
3) Uri asked people to pull out their own keys and to focus on bending them while Uri did the same to a spoon. One person in the audience reported some success and Uri’s spoon did bend. PK? Maybe, maybe not. No good way to observe everything.
4) Uri held a bunch of radish seeds in his hand to try to get some to sprout. While this has been duplicated by skeptics, what happened next was provocative. Holding the one sprouting seed between his thumb and forefinger, with nothing else in his hand, Uri walked up and down the center aisle. The seed continued to sprout until there was at least a half inch of growth visible. Very Interesting.
Whatever one believes about Uri Geller’s abilities, he is truly a fascinating man and excellent presenter. He informs as much as he entertains. And I can’t do anything but applaud his new message of self-empowerment.