This article is concerned with exploring two questions: “What is consciousness?” and “What are the mechanics of remote viewing?” from the perspective of Raja Yoga, an ancient model Ingo Swann (the father of remote viewing as developed by the military Star Gate program) says we’re moving towards.

Ingo Swann and A Language of Experiential Consciousness

In the YouTube video (IRVA Conference 2006) Human Super Sensitivities and the Future, Ingo Swann notes that we’re locked into definitions that are inadequate for talking about remote viewing and psychic experience. He notes that the scientific method was invented in 1845 by four guys under the age of 24 who based the method on the assumption that matter is the only reality.

Upon reading the definition of parapsychology aloud, he makes it clear with examples that not only do we not have a vocabulary of consciousness, but that the scientific method based on materialism is useless for our purposes. As long as we cannot explain consciousness, he says, we cannot explain remote viewing.

Ingo also emphasizes the importance of the experiential aspect of psychic experience, which materialistic science cannot study directly. Materialistic science is designed to study the external world of matter only. But matter, he says, accounts for only about 4% to 7% of the universe, with the rest of the “stuff” being currently referred to as “dark matter” and “dark energy.”

Ingo goes on to say that we are moving to a model that already existed at least 3000 years ago. This model is written in Sanskrit, which he describes as a potent, extremely complex language of experiential consciousness. He begins discussing this model by referring to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text of Raja Yoga (the yoga of consciousness, not the yoga of physical exercise) and the Sanskrit term akasha, variously translated as “space,” “subtle space,” “radiance,” “ground luminosity,” or “field of knowledge” that interpenetrates everything in the universe, including matter. Ingo emphasizes several times that it is “interpenetrating” and “full of information.” And, he says, we have access to it. It interpenetrates us; we interpenetrate it.

Next he talks about the lokas, or “planes”; the plane of matter, bhuloka, is one of 7 to 14 planes, depending on how you want to cut up the pie. He lingers wistfully on the svarloka, the intuitional plane of pure light and unentangled thought and emotion, then moves to a discussion of the true meaning of guru and the nature of real education. Ingo also mentions the siddhis, powers or accomplishments, such as remote viewing, and the inner limbs of Raja Yoga, which I’ll cover under the subtitle “Samyama and the Siddhis.”

What Are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

In October 1969, when I was 21 years old, I began studying the Yoga Sutras as a student of Raja Yoga with Sri Nirvananda Deva in New Orleans. Upon opening the little blue book and reading the first few sutras, I felt a great joy and excitement. This was what I’d been looking for in the science section of the library most of my adolescent and young adult life: an instruction book on how to study inner reality scientifically. Science and the scientific method were my passion, but inner reality was my interest. The Yoga Sutras validated my intuitive knowing that the scientific method could be turned inwards to study inner reality. The scientific method is not limiting if one does not assume that “only matter exists.”

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (yoga means “union”; sutras are “strings” or “threads”) consists of 195 concise statements in precise order, each a condensed encyclopedia of knowledge that was well developed as an oral tradition at least a few thousand years B.C. (5000 years ago). The Vedas (“direct knowledge” received through sages and poets) were written down between 1500 and 3000 B.C. Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras between 500 and 200 B.C. to summarize the ancient knowledge. Raja Yoga is not a religion like Hinduism or Buddhism. It is a science based on experiential evidence that the universe is very big and matter is a very small part of it.

First I’m going to explore what the sutras say about the nature of consciousness (which includes perception and identity). Second, I’ll present the sutra most directly related to remote viewing and what it says about the mechanics of inner perception.

Brace yourselves; please put on your seat belts and let go of your baggage. What I’m going to present is often the opposite of what materialistic science has taught us about consciousness and its potentials.

Mind and Consciousness in Raja Yoga

Ingo’s all-important question was, “What is consciousness?” He says that until we know what consciousness is, we cannot explain remote viewing. (A note to those who are familiar with Sanskrit: I’m including the h’s and i’s instead of putting in all the marks; I think this will make pronunciation a little easier for most people.)

In the sutras, the word chitta is usually translated as “mind” or “consciousness.” Nicolai Bachman translates chitta as “heart-mind field” or “heart-mind complex.” But the most basic translation of chitta is “field.”

Further, chitta is a field that is conditioned or programmed by buddhi (intelligence). When a person is thinking, dreaming, remembering, perceiving, imagining, intending, or experiencing stimuli, it causes waves in the chitta (field) which are called vrittis. Vrittis are also described as “modifications,” “distortions,” or “fluctuations.”

Consciousness, therefore, according to the sutras, consists of a field that is being conditioned (affected, modified) by intelligence. Waves are created in the field when it is being conditioned or influenced.

There is much more, but first, how is the chitta related to the akasha (the subtle space that is full of information) that so excited Ingo? If we remember that the akasha is everywhere and interpenetrates everything, this would, of course, include the chitta.

The akasha is also referred to as a “field,” but a special field that underlies and includes everything else. Since the akasha contains all knowledge throughout all time and space, it is just the place to go for remote viewing. In fact, it sounds like what we refer to as the “subconscious,” which we claim makes remote viewing possible, only the akasha is not limited to the personal mind. (Most people think of their subconscious as personal and not including other minds or information.)

To continue, the chitta is threefold in humans: the field encompasses the outer mind and physical senses (manas), the intelligence/intellect/reason (buddhi) that is capable of vijnana (judgement of right and wrong) and viveka-khyati (a high state of discriminating perception), and the individual sense of self, the ego (ahankara).

In Raja Yoga, chitta is not seen as an emergent or epiphenomenon of matter; it is seen more as a complex creative material or medium that the drastir (seer) can use for perceptual, creative, and memory storage purposes.

This bring us to the question of identity: Who is the drastir? Who does the seeing, thinking, remembering, dreaming, and remote viewing? First, a little on the yogic teachings of perception, as this will make the answer easier to understand.

Raja Yoga and Perception

A perception is taken in by manas, the outer mind, processed by buddhi, the intelligence, and stored in memory by the ahankara, the ego (literally: “I am [aham] the maker/doer/producer [kara]”; when the two words come together, the “m” in aham changes to an “n,” thus ahankara).

A one-time or benign perception is stored as simple smriti, or memory, in the temporary outer memory. Repeated or intense perceptions (whether pleasant or painful) are stored as karmashayas (deep residual memories) and influence expression of the vasanas (subtle unique traits underlying individuality).

Deeper still are the samskaras (habitual patterns, conditioning). At the deepest level are the kleshas (afflictions), beginning with avidya (ignorance; literally, the “inability to see”), which breeds fear. Fear, in turn, breeds all the other kleshas, such as egotism (fear of losing power or control; it includes low self-esteem as well as excessive self-importance), clinging to past pleasure (fear of loss), aversion to past suffering (fear of future suffering), and fear of death (annihilation). A klesha may be dormant, weakly active, intermittent, or in full force at any given time.

When chitta is generally clear, the drastir/purusha (seer/awareness) can illuminate the chitta unobstructed and perceive virtually unlimited knowledge in any time, space, or location.

In Raja Yoga, perception is active, not passive. In order to perceive, the light of the purusha must illuminate the chitta (this is true at the subtle level of remote viewing as well as at the level of manas, the senses, as you will see when we get to the sutra on remote viewing.)

There are sutras on reflected light, mainly regarding the development of the siddhi of invisibility, but to actually perceive something, the drastir (seer) must direct his awareness through the medium of the chitta.

Identity in Raja Yoga: OK, So Who Is the Perceiver?

The drastir, or seer, is also known as the witness, the observer, or the true self. The drastir and the purusha, the pure light of awareness, are the same. Atman is also used to refer to the true self. In other words, in this system which Ingo describes as advanced in the study of consciousness, a person’s true identity is his spiritual self. His true identity is not chitta (and remember that chitta is not only the mind and consciousness, it is also the senses, the memory, and the ego, all of which are changing and temporary).

Chitta is a medium, or middleman (says scholar Nicolai Bachman) between the purusha (pure awareness) and prakriti (manifestation, creation, nature). This is very cool once it’s fully grasped.

When the drastir (seer) loses himself in the drasta (seen) by identifying with it (thinking that the seeable and the seer are the same), it is called samyoga. In a state of samyoga, the ahankara (ego) is in control rather than the buddhi (intelligence) and the person becomes very confused about his true nature, identity, and purpose. He lives with an underlying anxiety (like he’s forgotten something important) and makes a good bit of duhkha (suffering; literally “negative space”), to the extent that his buddhi (intelligence) cannot direct his ahankara (ego). To see examples, turn on CNN.

Obstructions to Perception (Whether Physical or Remotely Viewed)

All branches of yoga are for the purpose of calming the chitta, clearing the perception, and putting intelligence in charge. The physical exercise yoga so popular in the world today is for the purpose of promoting health because illness can be a distraction and cloud the perception. To the extent the perception is clouded, whether by kleshas (afflictions), karmashayas (deep residual memories), and samskaras (habitual patterns, conditioning), the drastir/purusha (seer/awareness) cannot accurately perceive the drasta (seen). Other antarayas (obstructions to perception) listed in the sutras are apathy, self-doubt, carelessness, lethargy, sexual/other obsessions, thinking we know more than we do or thinking we already know the truth, lack of perseverance, instability, and regression.

To the extent perception is clouded, the ahankara (ego) takes over. It recalls the memories it thinks are needed and directs the buddhi (intelligence) on the course of action to take. (This is like the new recruit directing the general.) The ahankara (ego) selects whatever surface thoughts and emotions support the course of action it has decided upon. This, of course, often causes duhkha (suffering) because the ahankara (ego) cannot make use of the vast knowledge in the akasha without the direction of buddhi (intelligence).

Clearing Obstructions to Perception

There’s really much, much more to it than this, but briefly:

Niyamas are internal practices that help clear up the perception. These practices include study (including the pursuit of self-knowledge as well as other kinds of knowledge); cultivating contentment and generosity; making efforts toward positive change; maintaining cleanliness of body, mind, and surroundings; and surrender to the highest knowledge.

Yamas are external practices to help free us from the kleshas: practicing peace and nonviolence, being truthful, not stealing, conserving the vital energy (not being promiscuous), and not hoarding (not being greedy and grasping). Physical yoga is for the purpose of eliminating distractions and misperceptions caused by illness.

A Comparison: Remote Viewing in Our Time and in Raja Yoga

Here is the current definition of remote viewing.

From Daz’s website []:

“Remote Viewing is the trained ability to acquire accurate direct knowledge not available to the ordinary physical senses, of locations, things and events — these are distant in time or space from the Remote Viewer and can be in the past, present, or future.

“In summary, what this means is that an intuitive working under a scientific protocol which included being blind to the Target, can record and report information about targets unknown to them and remotely located from them. This is always done using a ground work or rules called protocols, anything not done within these rules is NOT Remote Viewing.”

And a brief history:

“Remote Viewing Originally developed for and utilized by The CIA and later the Department Of Defense for intelligence collection purposes with the famed ‘Star Gate’ project, it has a long history (30+ years) as an intelligence gathering tool. Remote Viewing started its long life and funding in 1972 and continued being funded for intel and research until 1995 when the secret projects were made public disclosure by the CIA and ‘officially’ closed.”

More information on protocols and methodologies is available on Daz’s website.

In Raja Yoga, the ability to see what is hidden, obscure, remote, subtle (nonphysical), or extremely small (such as an atom or cell), is one of more than 30 siddhis (attainments) that may be acquired in a number of ways: from birth (genetic inheritance), the use of herbal medicines, the chanting of specific sounds, diligent practice with effort, and samadhi (one-pointed meditation or total focus). Of course, study, training, effort, and practice are needed for mastery of this siddhi. (Ingo would prefer that siddhi be translated as “becoming awakened at the intuitive level.”)

OK, but what about blind protocol, which is so important to remote viewing in our time? First, it was not needed to prove that humans are psychic beings or that specific information was obtained only through psychic means. But it was used to ensure that a student would have the purest experience possible. Information would be withheld so that experience would be as pure as possible, free from expectations. Imagine a community of accomplished teachers and peers who could check up on one another and often explored the same inner realities. One’s abilities and liabilities would be known. Might one be sent on a mission in remote viewing by a teacher? Yes; villagers and townspeople often consulted with yogis, monks, and teachers on many matters. Might this mission be given blind, or with minimal frontloading? It might certainly be.

I don’t think it’s possible to compare one-to-one the protocols and methodologies of a culture having nearly opposite assumptions to those of the materialistic scientific method, which holds that “only matter is real.” Most of us have been indoctrinated in materialism from birth. Even when the idea that “only matter is real” was not up front, it was underneath whatever we were taught in biology, psychology, physics, astronomy, economics, and every other subject. It’s obvious we would approach the topic of remote viewing differently from a culture with different assumptions.

Reducing Vrittis in the Chitta or Decreasing Signal Noise

The first step to remote viewing in Raja Yoga, while concurrently working on clearing the perception and acting from buddhi (intelligence) rather than the ahankara (ego), is to gain mastery in stilling the mind at will and reducing mind chatter. Every time we think a thought, it produces a vritti, or wave, in the chitta. We human beings have a great problem with excessive vrittis in our chitta. Worse, most of them for most people are negative (because the ahankara instead of the buddhi is in charge).

The types of thoughts, or vrittis, are classified as helpful or harmful; as accurate empirical perceptions or inaccurate misperceptions; as created by the imagination without an empirical object; as without content in deep sleep; and as mental retention (smriti) of a previously experienced object.

The purusha/drastir (seer) who has attained mastery is able to still mind chatter relatively at will. He is also able to choose a vritti he would pursue and perform samyama (total attention) on it to gain knowledge of it. A target coordinate would be a vritti.


Mastery of chitta is achieved by learning to perform samyama, a stream of continuous attention, on an object. Ingo mentions this in the video.

Samyama is threefold:

Dharana: choosing a focus and directing the mind there. (At this stage, one is still distracted from time to time. One is in the present but still somewhat aware of what is going on in the environment.)

Dhyana: maintaining a continuous flow of attention on the chosen focus. (One is more closely present to the focus, and peripheral distractions are few.)

Samadhi: experiencing the focus with total control of attention. The chitta becomes like a clear crystal. The focus of attention is one-pointed and the object is clearly understood. (One becomes presence itself with pure knowledge of the object.)

The samyama of remote viewing: We choose a focus (target), maintain that focus (acquire the signal line), and become one-pointed with the target to perceive what is there.

Samadhi produces a sattvic state of mind conducive to attaining the siddhis. The mind can be in a state of tamas, rajas, or sattva. These are called the three gunas, or qualities of the natural world. Tamas is the quality of inertia, solidity, darkness, resistance to change, lethargy, pessimism, impurity, depression, and decay. Rajas is the quality of desire, competition, aggressiveness, agitation, turbulence, changeability, anger, lack of control, and grasping. Sattva is the quality of equilibrium, balance, harmony, steadiness, optimism, adaptability, clarity, peacefulness, purity, lightness, and radiance.

Remote Viewing Sutra

Various sutras refer to remote perceptions of all kinds, such as supersensory hearing, knowledge of past and future, knowledge of another’s heart-mind, knowledge of all worlds, knowledge of organization and motion of the stars, invisibility, walking on water, and so on. I have chosen one to examine that relates most closely to our definition of remote viewing. Please note that the phrase “in any time or place” is taken for granted in Raja Yoga.

Sutra 25 in Vibhuti Pada, the third chapter, refers specifically to remote viewing as one of the siddhis (powers, or attainments). Pada means “chapter” and vibhuti means “accomplishment.” Below is the sutra followed by three different translations and one commentary (Iyengar doesn’t really translate the sutras word by word; instead, he writes a long paragraph on each one).

3.25 or III.25pravrttyalokanyasatsukshmavyavahitaviprakrstajnanam

Nicolai Bachman’s translation: By projecting the light of pravritti, knowledge of objects subtle, hidden, or distant [is obtained].

I.K. Taimni’s translation: Knowledge of the small, the hidden, or the distant [is obtained] by directing the light of superphysical faculty.

Nischala Joy Devi’s translation: By samyama on the inner light, one obtains knowledge of what is subtle, hidden, or far distant.

B.K.S. Iyengar’s commentary (partial, due to length and inclusion of related topics): The yogi develops supersensory perception … which enables him to direct the flame of awareness … to whatever is hidden, veiled, or concealed … including investigation of the interior weaknesses of the body, mind, and intelligence … to constructively remove disparities.

Now let’s look at the actual Sanskrit words composing the sutra:

pravritti: activity of refined sensory perception directed outwards; “pra” means “forth” and “vrit” means to “turn, roll, unfold”

aloka: light, radiance; supernatural sight; vision, appearance

nyasa: “projecting” or “directing” [by performing samyama on pravritti, one directs perception/conditioned light (see below) to a chosen point in time and space]

sukshma: subtle, fine, invisible to the physical senses [Courtney’s subspace, other realms]

vyavahita: hidden, concealed, obscure

viprakrista: distant, remote [in space or time]

jnana: knowledge

Before examining these words and stating a conclusion based on them, I want to say first that my conclusion may only pertain to a type of yogic remote viewing. I say this to encourage an open mind. Many in the remote viewing community tend to have certain beliefs that run counter to the conclusion of this sutra. However, since everyone agrees that we don’t know the actual mechanics of remote viewing, it can be helpful to explore new ideas and not let preferred ideas keep us from discovery. We may want a belief to be true whether it is or not, but sometimes we only find the truth by going beyond our comfort zone.

Before we move to the conclusion of my article on the mechanics of remote viewing, here is something important to know: In yoga, the empirical world doesn’t end with what we can perceive with our physical senses. In Western scientific thought, only the physical exists and can be studied scientifically, as noted at the beginning of this article. But in yoga, there are many dimensions or lokas of subtlety.

From The Science of Yoga, by I. K. Taimni, p. 287, regarding our sutra:

“Patanjali has not definitely mentioned and classified the different planes but their existence is implicit in his doctrines of different levels of consciousness (I-17) and the stages of the Gunas (II-19). His reference to higher sensuous activity or superphysical faculties in the Sutra also shows that he took for granted the existence of the superphysical worlds, and the exercise of faculties pertaining to them. Another reason, perhaps, why the different planes of existence are not mentioned by him specifically is that such a division of the material side of the Universe is not necessary for the purpose of Yoga. Yoga as a practical Science is concerned mainly with the raising of human consciousness into progressively higher levels of existence and since all the planes really form one heterogeneous mass, they may, for the sake of convenience, be taken as one.”

While subtle forms are only seeable by the drastir/purusha to the extent that chitta is clear and the inner organs of perception are developed, these lokas are still considered to be a part of the phenomenal world. “Subtle” in the sutra also refers to what Courtney Brown calls “subspace.” It is in subspace that we perceive emotions, concepts, and other “nonphysical” realities (persons, structures, etc.).

Many remote viewers favor explanations of remote viewing as involving nonlocality and quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics would certainly be a part of remote viewing because it is a part of everything, including the brain. Yoga already assumes nonlocality, transcendence of time, and instantaneous projection of chitta without regard to distance. It also assumes the nature of prakriti (the manifested world) as not solid but energetic and dynamic. The ancient yogis measured the age of the (current, to them) universe in billions of years and some universal cycles in the trillions; the atom and the smallest unit of time are included in the texts. Yoga has known these things for thousands of years as realities, not theories, because their “inner empiricism” has shown them to be realities verifiable by peers. In yoga, the highest form of knowledge is direct experience.

What about the idea that remote viewing takes place in the subconscious? My dictionary defines the subconscious as “that part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings.” “Subconscious” is a known and accepted term for explaining remote viewing to newcomers, so why not use it? But to those who really want to understand the mechanics of remote viewing, we need to remember that it still doesn’t really explain anything as long as it’s used within the current scientific paradigm of “only matter exists.”

First, it begs the question: What is a subconscious, exactly? Is this “part of the mind” in the brain or floating around the top of the head? Is it all about, everywhere? If so, isn’t it at the target site, too? If not, how can it perceive something and not have an organ of perception where that something is? How does the information get inside it? If only matter is real, it can’t. Nonlocal perception gets around this, but it still somewhat begs the question. What really happens in nonlocal perception? Where is the point of translation or transference? What is quantum entanglement? Quantum coherence?

If the subconscious is the akasha, which is everywhere, including at the target site and in one’s personal field of chitta, and the akasha contains all knowledge across all time and space (as it says in the sutras), we don’t really have to go anywhere to be wherever we want.


According to this sutra, to remote view, the buddhi (intelligence) projects/directs/rolls forth (pravritti) the activity of supernatural sight (aloka), to perceive/illuminate an object that is either subtle, small, hidden, obscure, concealed, or distant (or a combination of these).

The sutra seems to be saying that remote viewing involves a projection of consciousness to the target site’s loka. It is interesting that the word aloka and not purusha is used in the sutra. I did a lot of research on the word and my sense of it is that it is “conditioned” light, unlike the light of the purusha, which is pure awareness (the witness or observer). Our word would be “programmed.” (Also note that there are many words for “light” in Sanskrit because there is not just one kind of light; there many different kinds of light.)

The buddhi (intelligence) programs a vritti (thought, or fluctuation of chitta) with the intent to remote view a specific target. This light/energy is then called aloka. Its function is “superphysical vision.” Note the vritti suffix in pravritti. It is a forward-moving vritti (thought, or modification of chitta) that “unrolls” aloka into prakriti. Might our term be quantum tunneling, which is a proven phenomenon? (See the Ted Talk by Jim Al-Khalili: How quantum biology might explain life’s biggest questions, received email by courtesy of Mary Rosenblatt.) An aside: The word prakriti is not used in the sutra, but it is implicit in the definition of pravritti. Pravritti is defined as the act of “moving outwards” into the world. Nirvritti, its opposite, is the act of “moving inwards” to meditate.

To perceive the target, aloka would have to illuminate/contact it. If so, it seems we would indeed be in contact with the actual target, if only at a subtle (nonphysical) level. (We know that some remote viewers seem to have affected the target site physically; it may be that the degree of contact may span a range from subtle to nearly gross.)

In yoga, to perceive means to direct the light of the seer/drastir/purusha through the medium of chitta upon the object to be perceived. The light must touch it to illuminate it and know it directly.

Once the drastir (seer) cognates the target, maybe the buddhi (intelligence) can direct the ahankara (ego) to impress a copy (smriti) in the chitta so that he can explore it at leisure without being detected at the site. I don’t see why not!


See Ingo Swann’s site [].

Download for free I. K. Taimni’s The Science of Yoga at This is the version I grew up with in the 1970s.
Nicolai Bachman’s The Yoga Sutras Workbook (with CDs and Sanskrit language cards) is great for study and learning how to say the Sanskrit words.

B.K.S. Iyengar’s Core of the Yoga Sutras is a classic. He died recently in his 90s (still doing asanas to the end).

Nischala Joy Devi’s The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras is a wonderful translation for adding color and practicality to the sutras.

Author's Bio: 

Linda R. Reneau began studying the Yoga Sutras in 1969. She has been a student of remote viewing since 2007, although a serious student only since 2012. Currently she teaches natural meditation and intuitive wellness classes.