This paper describes the development of the blind protocol, and its place in this history of consciousness research. It was first devised by Croesus, King of the Lydians (BCE 560–547) and reported by Herodotus (? BCE 484 – ? 424), and was created to protect against fraud in assessing an Anomalous Perception (AP) event; a Remote Viewing (RV) experiment little different from those conducted today. Its next use in the 17th century was to study a peasant farmer, Jacques Aymar, who solved crimes with Anomalous Perception, using dowsing. Not only was a blind protocol employed, but the rudiments of controls were introduced to assess Aymar. The next documented use of a blind protocol in consciousness research occurred in 1784, when it was explicitly employed in the interest of science, and its history as a research technique can be said to have formally begun. King Louis the XVIth created a commission to evaluate Franz Anton Mesmer’s claims concerning healing through “animal magnetism,” administered while people were in a trance, and asked Benjamin Franklin to be the commission’s head. The paper proposes that Franklin be considered the first parapsychologist. He created the blind protocol to answer the king’s question as to whether “animal magnetism” was real, and he not only introduced demographic variables and controls, but literally blindfolded people, which is why today we call it the blind protocol. Franklin’s observations also present the first recorded Western description of psychosomatic illness. An unintended consequence of Franklin’s Mesmer study was the loss of the idea of psychophysical self-regulation (PPSR) as a research vector, although the English surgeon John Eliotson (1791–1868) apparently saw through the failure of Mesmer’s explanatory model to the deeper insight in the form of hypnosis that was Mesmer’s real discovery. He seems to have avoided all attempts at explaining how it worked but conducted a considerable number of surgeries using hypnosis as the anesthetic, anticipating its usage in this capacity a century later. So great was the disapproval of Mesmer, however, that no one seems to have gotten Eliotson’s point. Franklin’s protocol, though, rapidly became the gold standard of science. Rupert Sheldrake, however, carried out a survey of the leading scientific journals and discovered that the main use of the blind protocol is not in medicine per se, but parapsychology and consciousness research, in which it is used for the same purposes it was originally conceived: to winnow out fraud in anomalous consciousness events and to avoid introducing experimenter effects. Ultimately, though, the protocol may be based on a false assumption, because increasingly research in areas such as therapeutic intent/healing and remote viewing suggest that all consciousness from single-celled organisms to human beings may be interlinked through a nonlocal aspect of awareness they all share.
Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing
July 2005 (Vol. 1, Issue 4, Pages 284-289)