Book Review: Do You See What I See

Book Review: Do You See What I See

Author: Russell Targ

Author’s Facebook page:

Date: 2008

Publisher: Hampton Roads

ISBN: 978-1-57174-559-0

Length: 239 pages plus notes, bibliography, and index

Illustrations: black-and-white photos

Quote: “Our principle (sic) source of suffering is our defense of the story of who we think we are—the story of Me.”

Interesting quote for a memoir…by definition a printed copy of “the story of Me.” Russell Targ is an 81-year-old, extremely nearsighted physicist who believes in extrasensory perception. His other books have been about ESP and a Buddhist-flavored New Age spirituality, which explains why this is the first of his books that I’ve actually read.

So, do his accounts of how psychics were able to draw images similar to real locations convince readers that ESP is real? Only if you want to be convinced. If you are asked to draw a landscape every day, whether you’re thinking about the location of something someone is looking for or about images you’ve seen on television, in the course of a year it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll draw one image similar to the location of something someone is looking for. You could have picked it out of the person’s mind…or you could have produced a coincidental resemblance.

Americans seriously, scientifically debated about the existence of ESP, fourth-dimensional space, and other concepts that still interest Targ, in the mid-twentieth century. One source of what seemed promising data was the discovery that some people have High Sensory Perceptivity. When people testing their telepathic skills are physically close to each other, even if they then separate themselves by a mile or two before attempting to transmit a message, most people who have the HSP trait will get encouraging results. What’s going on here is not what Targ describes as telepathy. It’s perception of pheromones, the airborne “molecules of emotion,” via mostly unconscious nerves located between the mouth and nose. We don’t consciously perceive most pheromones as odors, but we manage to smell and react to them anyway.

Pheromones explain why we may be intensely attracted to someone we might objectively consider less handsome or beautiful than someone who “feels like a relative.” They also explain how it was possible for the novelist Upton Sinclair and his wife to go into separate rooms and, apparently, transmit simple pictures to each other telepathically. If you know someone well, you can not only pick up the person’s overall mood, while exposed to the person’s pheromones, but have a pretty good guess what sort of mental images accompany that mood for that person, through pheromones. The results of tests of your unconscious communication with one another will be fascinating, but when the goal is to locate someone in a distant country, pheromonal communication is irrelevant to the question of whether psychics could ever be more useful than randomly throwing darts at a map.

Targ is, beyond all doubt, HSP. Despite a combination of genetic and traumatic eye damage severe enough to be called “legal blindness” in the U.S., he seems to get more use out of his damaged eyes at 70 than some people get out of normal eyes at 25. Is it possible that he’s conditioned himself to believe that he has ESP because his perceptivity has always been acute? It is likely.

In Do You See What I See, Targ describes a few memorable successes of his own and his friends’ ESP experiments…and hints at a dull majority of failures similar to what the rest of us were obtaining, during the years of ESP exploration. Does he prove that he and his friends were truly psychic, or does he prove that the unconscious mind guesses, just as the conscious mind does, and anyone who keeps guessing for seventy years is likely to have some great stories to tell? Probably, whichever opinion you inclined toward before you read it, Do You See What I See will confirm for you.

Meanwhile, it’s as entertaining as talking to any seventy-something with an intact memory is likely to be. Targ knew some interesting people; Alan Alda, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, Bobby Fischer. Targ’s life at the time of writing had acquired an inspirational quality, with the suggestion that not only happiness, but some form of erotic love, may have remained available to him after a colostomy. His self-description as “a blind biker” may be somewhat misleading since he was actually a nearsighted rider of a specially built, small, slow bike, but perhaps it’s defensible on the grounds that it establishes Targ as an interesting and likable character. Most people who read books would probably enjoy meeting him, and therefore most people who read books will probably enjoy reading his memoir.

Do You See What I See is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, for the standard price of $5 per book + $5 per package (payments and orders go to the address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen), we will send $1 to Russell Targ or a charity of his choice.

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