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Jim Underdown

November 26, 2014

On November 13, 2014, a few representatives from the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) in Los Angeles visited Culver City, California, one of the three U.S. locations for the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC). We were there to attend an introductory lecture that described the IAC and its various activities. The main IAC offices are in Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with associate offices in over a dozen other countries.

Jim Underdown at the IAC

The IAC began as the Center for Continuous Consciousness in 1981 under an MD named Waldo Vieira, who would write a book in 1986 called Projectiology: A Panorama of Experiences of the Consciousness Outside the Human Body. Projectiology, of course, is the scientific study of experiences beyond the body. Out of body experiences (OBEs) seem to be their headline phenomenon. (The folks at the IAC, by the way, like their pseudoscientific cousins in the Church of Scientology, are fond of making up sciencey-sounding words such as conscientiology, holomaturity, and cosmoethics. Indeed, their brochure labels the IAC as “a mini-cog in an assistantial maxi-mechanism.”)

In addition to OBE, they believe in past lives, various paranormal phenomena, energetic healing, chakras, and loads of other new age blather. As you might guess, there is little actual science being practiced by these folks. One thing we noticed was that they seem to confuse experimentation with explanation or testimonials. Their brochure states that “participative research requires that the researcher be both the scientist and the object of the study.”

Skeptics admit that there are plenty of people who experience out-of-body-type dreams, but differ from the IAC as to what’s actually going on. The IAC believes that a less-dense spiritual energy can leave the body with lucidity and travel through the physical world. They conduct classes that claim to teach this ability, though we were told that success depends partially on the student. (Four class modules start at $130.)

We in the IIG love this kind of claim because it’s so easily tested. We’ll place a word or number in a place familiar to the claimant and simply ask him or her to project over to the (isolated) spot and reveal the answer. No such test has been passed under controlled conditions.

The volunteers we met at the IAC office were not evil. In fact, they seemed to be quite pleasant folks—seekers of some higher truth that either their religion or worldview wasn’t quite satisfying. We don’t blame them for searching for a warmer and fuzzier way to look at the world. We just wish they’d learn enough science that would line that world up with reality a little better.

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown is executive director of the Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles, and the founder of the Independent Investigations Group.