When Jim Channon authored the First Earth Battalion manual, he was hoping to bring warfare into a more humane, modern age. In a new series of columns, he talks about the film and why harnessing the paranormal is so important.
Jon Ronson, who wrote the book The Men Who Stare at Goats, has taken over the Guardian's film section this week, and asked former Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon, one of the inspirations behind The Men Who Stare at Goats, write a few columns about the film and his ideas. Channon authored the First Earth Battalion manual, which proposed that the US Army modernize warfare by looking toward the human potential movement. Channon suggested engaging the enemy with positive vibrations and offerings of peace, but also suggested that soldiers unlock their potential by practicing meditation and yoga, and that work to develop superhuman abilities such as perceiving auras, teleportation, psychokinesis, and precognition. Ronson discusses Channon's parapsychology in his book, and many of Channon's ideas found their way into the film.
In his columns, Channon says that he doesn't mind that his ideas are being presented as comedy (he calls it "the ultimate roast"), and is just happy that they've enjoyed such a long shelf life. After all, he still believes that the ideas he lays out in the First Earth Battalion are still important in the modern age. Modern warfare, he notes, is still extremely violent and psychologically scarring. He believes that, by opening up their perceptions, soldiers can avoid situations where they might be in physical danger or risk killing another human being. But he also believes that harnessing those paranormal abilities is important in all walks of life:
Another important idea about the paranormal is that it is currently one of the most overlooked skillsets in modern life. We must awaken to the possibility that the most important single advance the human race can make to enter this century where we engage the galaxy and all of its mysteries will require we become adept at moving through dimensions of many kinds. We must tend to our interdimensional world.
While the Army may not have embraced his pacifist parapsychology (though it has employed some of his psychological techniques), Channon has found success in the corporate world. In more recent years, Channon has billed himself as a "strategic shaman," working with companies like AT&T, DuPont, Shell, Whirlpool, and even the US Army Corps of Engineers.